Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Should the church(es) be involved in political statement making?

For a week or two, as I drive out of the Anglican Centre/Theology House precinct based at St Peter'sm Church Corner, Upper Riccarton, I have noticed the following sign:

If you cannot read the statement it is, 'Average CEO salary 200 times lowest wage ... OOPS!'

To be honest, I thought the flagged background meant this was a billboard erected by the NZ First Party (which can have a leftwards lurch to some of its economic policy). It turns out the sign is erected by some group in the church(es) (Methodists?) and, obviously, it has received permission to be on Anglican land.

David Farrer at Kiwiblog has posted about the sign and churches campaigning during the run up to the election. He concludes with a confrontational comment:

"That reminds me that I must find time after the election to work on a members’ bill to remove tax free legal status from churches in New Zealand. They should have no special status beyond that of any other NGO."

Given that David Farrer is a responsible and influential blogger and media pundit with strong links to the National Party, this is not necessarily an idle, inconsequential threat. His threat does not fall on deaf ears as you can read in the comments, many of which object to the church having any role in 'politics' though charitable works to help those who suffer because of 'politics' is fine!

One response that I have to the statement - now that I recognise its provenance is not that of a political party - is that it is a confused and confusing message. Confused because it falls into a trap of taking a selective statistical statement and using that to highlight a message without offering clarity as to what the message is. That CEOs should be paid less? That CEOs being paid up to 199x the lowest wage is okay but a line is crossed at 200x? That we are an unequal society? But we are an unequal society when a CEO is paid 5x the lowest wage. That we are a grossly unequal society?

The message is confusing because, as already noted above, it has more capacity to imply a political party is making the statement than that a church or coalition of churches is making the statement. That is, the billboard does not convey any particular message about a church or churches caring for the state of our society.

My final critique of the statement is that it does not convey much sense of what we are to do in response. Avoid voting for ACT (the party most blatantly supportive of economic inequality)? Vote generally leftwards because ... well, which party on the left has any policy to control CEOs salaries or salary packages? Vote for a better society? Why not actually say that? E.g. 'This election vote for the best NZ ever' or 'Vote this election for a NZ which cares for the poor'.

Of course, I could be wrong ...

Facing Mecca

As we attempt to understand what is going on in the world as we 'face Mecca', whether trying to understand events in Mosul or dynamics in a local Mosque, what do you think about these thoughts?I am initially posting two items but will add others as I come across them.

Dark and demonic forces are driving a situation seemingly out of human control? Steve Bell writes ... but prayer is vital.

Dialogue is difficult, according to Cranmer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I think I can post this on our cathedral

I have mostly said nothing here about the ongoing dramas and controversies about our cathedral but I think I can post a couple of links here without fear of over-egging the controversy per se (with H/T to my colleague Gerard Jacobs).

First, a lovely opinion expressed by Will Harvie which makes some splendid points about what a future new cathedral could offer, based on the precedent the architecturally significant Transitional (Cardboard) Cathedral has set.

Secondly, that opinion piece includes a note to a book I had heard was being written but had not known till now is available, Shigeru Ban: Cardboard Cathedral by Dr Andrew Barrie, published by Auckland University Press.

Electronic Eucharist

Yes, right here in NZ, this weekend past, at the Abbey (an ACANZP youth event).

Go Spanky!

You be the judge, The borders of Israel

According to Taonga, the two Anglican and one Roman Catholic bishops of Auckland have issued a joint statement about the situation in Israel/Palestine/Gaza. Much of it is unobjectionable but it includes this:

"we, Bishop Patrick Dunn and Bishop Ross Bay, on behalf of the Catholic and Anglican communities in Auckland, call on Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders as a pre-requisite for dialogue to establish a lasting and just settlement in the Holy Land."

Now, I might be a bit too hazy about these borders, but I think that such a call, if acted upon, would be tantamount to a suicide note by Israel as a nation. Hence, understandably, Israel has not heeded this call for nearly fifty years.

Now, perhaps we do not think that Israel should exist. Perhaps we now regret the establishment of Israel by the UN (not least since, let's face it, the establishment contributed to the fundamental distortion of justice these past sixty or so years viewed from a Palestinian perspective). But if that is the case, then let's say that.

But if that is not our view. If we think that Israel has the right to exist as a nation then we should - when going public in this way - acknowledge what will contribute to continuing existence rather than its opposite. Further, if Israel should exist as a nation then we should ask the whole world, including Palestine to formally recognise the existence of the State of Israel. (No such call is made in the bishops' statement). Surely that is as much a 'pre-requisite for dialogue to establish a lasting and just settlement in the Holy Land' as any other pre-requisite?

But maybe my thinking is up the gumtree. What do you think?

The politics of Jesus - Monday 25th August 2014

A week is a long time in politics and the last week must have seemed very long for some of our politicians.

On Saturday night I watched an hour of party political broadcasts. Some were particularly bad, no doubt at least partially explained by lack of funding compared to the 'big boys' (National, Labour and Greens). My vote for the best broadcast goes to Labour. They managed to keep their leader, David Cunliffe at the front and centre of the piece while also giving room for his shadow cabinet team to speak. It was warm, clear, attractive.

Notwithstanding that, I think, despite National having a 'media/bad press week from hell', that a National-led government will win the election. That is my prediction just over three weeks out!


1. Listening carefully to what I hear people saying, I do not sense that any loyal National and associated party voters are going to change their minds because of last week.

2. Swing voters are going to face the dark side of National in a variety of ways, swinging to Labour/Greens only being one of them. I detect, for instance, a degree of cynicism: the left has a dark side too, so exposure of the dark side of the rightwing is not a sufficient reason to vote leftwards. I also find that policy coming out of Labour and the Greens (to say nothing of Internet Mana) raises its own questions. The questions, incidentally, are not about whether figures on a piece of paper add up (tax in = spending promise out) but whether voters believe the figures will or should translate into reality. As long as voters doubt that (say) taxing water usage by dairy farmers - a Green Party policy - is good for the economy then none will vote for such a policy simply because the 'dark side' of politics has been exposed in Dirty Politics.

3. That is, to win an election each prospective coalition has to retain their loyal base and capture the votes of swinging voters. I do not sense, both through wide reading and careful listening, that the last week has changed the fundamental sense, prior to the publication of Dirty Politics, that swinging voters perceive a National Party-led government will manage the economy better than a Labour-Greens-led government.

What does this analysis have to do with the politics of Jesus?

Not much!

In the politics of Jesus, in the kingdom of the Son of Man (featuring in this Sunday's gospel reading), people do not plot and play kingmaker, nor do they steal emails from one another, perception equals reality and reality is not distorted via deliberate manipulations of people's perceptions.

Links - Monday 25th August 2014

1. The bells of Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire - BBC Radio 4

2. Sunday Worship from the Keswick Convention - BBC Radio 4

3. Choral Evensong from Edington Priory, Wiltshire, during the Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy - BBC Radio 3

4. Sunday Holy Communion livestreamed from St Helena's Church, Beaufort, South Carolina at 10:15 am Eastern Time, 3:15 pm London Time

5. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

6. Some archived choral services during the holidays from the chapel of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge

7. David's Psalms: The Shepherd - Mark Meynell - All Souls Week Away Audio [Psalm 23 & 1Sam16-17]
Five more talks on David's Psalms for Today [mp3]
Talks guide and iTunes links

8. Part 2 and 3 of The Sons of Zebedee: Two Galilean Fishermen - talks by Professor Richard Bauckham at the University of Otago:
The Fishing Industry - Video [mp4]
and audio [mp3]
Zebedee and Sons - Video [mp4]
and audio [mp3]

9. Protection, Provision and Perseverance - Canon Andrew White - Holy Trinity Clapham

10. Various other sermons available
All Souls, Langham Place
their 4,000 sermon searchable archive
St James the Less, Pimlico
Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham Alabama

Please pray for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq, for the Church of England; for Nigeria where some of those kidnapped recently have been rescued by Chad troops; for the persecuted church in the Middle East, Iran, China and North Korean refugees; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; for wisdom in dealing with the Ebola outbreak in Africa and for the Diocese of South Carolina.  There have been calls for prayer for Peace, Libya and Syria and Iraq

11. Appeals for Prayer
Archbishop Sentamu’s Vigil of Hope and Trust for Peace - ABY site
A Call to Prayer for the Persecuted Church in Syria and Iraq - Archbishop Foley Beach
Libya: Pray for Tripoli and Christ the King Church - Dio Egypt

12. Iraq Region:
‘One week’ deadlines for Iraqi Christians to convert or ‘face the sword’ – WWM
Open Doors steps up aid to Iraq
Security, religion and gender in Al-Anbar Province, Iraq - Insight on Conflict
Media Summary 21 August 2014 – FRMME
Prayers for Iraq - Lent and Beyond

13. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers for the Church of England - Lent and Beyond
Prayers against Ebola - Lent and Beyond
Iran: Iranian pastor Haghnejad pressured for false confession whilst in solitary confinement – CSW
Nigeria: 87 men and women rescued from Boko Haram - Open Doors
Boko Haram overruns Buni Yadi and imposes rule – CSW
China: Pastor Zhang Shaojie loses appeal – CSW
More than 10 house church leaders in Hunan province criminally detained on cult charges in ongoing police action - China Aid
China arrests 11 North Korean refugees – WWM
South Carolina: Global South statement regarding The Diocese of South Carolina - Diocese of Egypt
Prayers for South Carolina - Lent and Beyond

14. Sunday Programme - current affairs with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

15. Food for thought
21st Century Evangelicals: Are we good neighbors? - Evangelical Alliance
Faith Hacking: A Simple Method to Organize Your Prayers - Tim Challies
Is Openess the Highest Virtue? - Dr Ian Paul
More Islamic State Polling and Other News – BRIN
Finance Statistics 2012 – CofE
BBC Wildlife Director John Downer & the technology of 'spy-cam' filmmaking - Getty Images Vimeo

16. Miracles - an obstacle to belief? - Andrew Sach

17. Tuba Tune (Cocker): James Vivian at the Temple Church

Friday, August 22, 2014

Jesus? Here, present and correct.

The question of Anglican identity keeps itself before our eyes. T19 draws attention today to the formalization of primatial oversight for the Diocese of South Carolina by the Global South Primates Steering Committee. Thus 'being Anglican' is about episcopal oversight within the Anglican way of being church: the Diocese of South Carolina is receiving that kind of oversight. It is thoroughly and unmistakably Anglican ... or, let the arguments continue about true Anglican identity.

Identity questions lie at the heart of the ISIS Caliphate. Beyond the imposition of rule by terror lies a question about Islamic identity, explored by Steve Bell and Robert Fisk. One simple observation to be made from their reflections is that while many decry the Caliphate as 'not Islam' or 'not true to Islam', many within the Caliphate, neither an insubstantial population nor territory, happily concur that this is Islam faithfulness being expressed.

For some Anglicans, episcopal oversight means the bishop has a 'seat', a place to sit which we call a cathedral. Once again our local paper The Press brings the ongoing controversy over our cathedral to its frontpage. Anglican identity is being mixed up with local civic identity!

From a different perspective, Anglican identity is also bound up in answers to the question of access to Jesus. Recently here a very informed set of comments (to this post) touched on the 'presence of Jesus', how we discern it and how we experience it. Anglican identity is intimately tied to this question. Fostering notions of 'Real Presence', for instance, is integrated into notions of 'valid ordination' and thus to who the ordainer is, i.e. a genuine bishop or a (so to speak) imposter bishop - a question which arises as we debate the Anglican status of dioceses like South Carolina (i.e. the present bishop is properly Anglican, but will his successor be, etc).

But push 'Real Presence' theology too far (to say nothing of questions about valid ordination) and the question arises 'Why Anglican Catholic and not Roman Catholic?'

Of course these days some Anglicans are answering that question by moving to Rome. There is a robust honesty in taking that step. To not take that step, if one is arguing along Real Presence lines, must be to allow that some criticisms of Roman theology from the English Reformation still stand. That, logically, should mean that we value the place of Scripture as God's written Word in the life of our church, a place from which all claims we make in respect of custom and tradition are subject to the critique of Scripture. When, for instance, this Sunday coming we read Matthew 16:13-20, we concur that the rock on which the church Christ builds is as much the confession of Peter as Peter himself, and then we demur that Peter's role in the founding of the church is a primatial role.

But the confession that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of the living God confronts us with Jesus the one in whom God has become flesh (the insight of John's Gospel) and the one who conquered death and is alive for evermore (the witness of the New Testament). The presence of this Christ in the world today is mediated through the Holy Spirit. There is no church being built by Christ which has its foundation a correct interpretation of the eucharist. The only church being built by Christ has at its foundation a correct understanding of who Jesus is, an understanding, according to John's Gospel, which the Spirit teaches us.

Back to the question of Anglican identity. Somewhere in our debates about our identity appears to lurk a danger that we place an emphasis on the institution of the church (who correctly belongs to the correct Communion), rather than on the confession of the church, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Where that confession is, there the name of Jesus is embedded in the character of the church. When we gather in that name, Jesus is present among us (with or without communion bread and wine).

We could have a roll call at such a gathering and call out the name of Jesus. He would respond, 'Present and correct.'

What Anglicans are wrestling with as we consider the state and status of the Diocese of South Carolina is whether our 'Anglican' version of the church is based on confession and not institutional requirements, and thus whether that Diocese confesses with us what we believe and the peculiarity of how we believe.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

This can't be true

That claim cannot be true. Many Neanderthals are alive and wandering around northern Iraq with machine guns and butcher's knives.

UPDATE Consider reading this ... for a Kiwi view.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lessons from a master

One of the best blogs around Kiwiland, in my view, is Kiwiblog, run by David Farrar. It gets a 'best' in my judgment because of its transparency (biased towards the National Party), fairness (always willing to criticise National and to point out fair and good policy from other parties), saneness (astute, sensible comment when fisking articles/columns) and spread of interests (not just politics, also travel, arts, economic data).

In the recent turmoil generated through the publication of Dirty Politics by Nicky Hager, some of which focuses on Kiwiblog, lots of questions are being raised about blogging and where it fits in the 'mediascape' of present day NZ. It is becoming apparent that the main blog being critiqued by Hager is a vehicle for unacknowledged diatribes against public figures such as scientists which are paid for by various 'industry groups.'

Out of this turmoil David Farrar reflects on his blogging activities and does so in a way which, with appropriate translation to another sphere, yields lessons to consider for Christian/Anglican bloggers. As well he says some things about blogging which are similar to my own motivations for writing in this public way.

Here are a few excerpts from this post:

(Start of excerpts) "Over the last week or so I have seriously considered walking away from Kiwiblog. While some will take huge pleasure in what has happened, let me say that it is genuinely traumatic to have hacked e-mails to and from yourself (even if you were not the one hacked) floating around, and to also realise that because you are a blogger and pollster, it means you and your office is fair game. One of the worst moments was having a senior staff member of mine, who is also a very good friend, tell me that she had been worried that I might think she was the leak, as our politics are different. I hate the impact this is having on so many people.

Some of the revelations coming out, also do not show aspects of the blogosphere in a good light (to put it mildly) and I’ve thought quite a bit about how this impacts the wider blogosphere.


There is part of me that wants to walk away so I am no longer a target. ... But the trouble is the blog for me is an outlet on what I think – what I like, what annoys me, what amuses me, what appals me. And I can’t imagine it can function as that, if I try and avoid politics. I do genuinely blog because I like having my say – that is my primary motivation.


So after some reflection, I have decided to carry on, but to make some changes. I want to improve trust in myself, Kiwiblog, and perhaps the wider blogosphere. So I’ve decided on the following.
  1. Kiwiblog is sending in an application today to join the Online Media Standards Authority. I’m not doing this so I can be called media. I don’t intend to label myself as media. I’m a blogger. I’m doing it so I can be held accountable to a public code of ethics and standards, and an independent complaint procedure. The code of ethics and standards will apply to both myself, and all guest bloggers here.
  2. I receive up to a dozen unsolicited e-mails a day, suggesting stories to me. Most are from people who are not politicians or staff – just ordinary readers. Some are just links to stories, some make some points on a topical issue. I sometimes quote these e-mails in posts. I have always been very careful to distinguish between content I write, and content people may send me (which I quote as coming from a reader). But I’m going to go a further step and if any content substantially comes from a parliamentary, or political party staffer, source I will state so when using it. I will not name individuals, but if I quote someone I will include information on their affiliations, when relevant. You will find this is very infrequently.

  3. After the election (ie when I have more time) I am going to consult on a tougher moderation policy for the comments. I want them to be robust and forceful, but focused more on issues than people. I have very limited time to read them myself, so probably will ask for some readers to step forward as moderators. We’ll have that discussion in October.
I hope people will appreciate the changes. I welcome feedback on them, and other suggestions. I believe political blogs can play a very valuable role in political discourse, and want to do what I can to be a constructive part of it." 
(Conclusion of excerpts)

One of the most time consuming aspects of blogging, I find, is moderating comments!

Links - Tuesday 19 August 2014

1. The bells of St Peter's, Ropley in Hampshire - BBC Radio 4

2. Choral Evensong from St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh during the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival - BBC Radio 3

3. Sunday Holy Communion livestreamed from St Helena's Church, Beaufort, South Carolina at 10:15 am Eastern Time, 3:15 pm London Time

4. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

5. Some archived choral services during the holidays from the chapel of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge

6. St Paul in Athens - Canon Michael Green - St Andrew's Oxford Audio [Acts 17:16-34]

7. The Sons of Zebedee: Two Galilean Fishermen - Professor Richard Bauckham - University of Otago Video [mp4]
and audio [mp3]

8. Keswick Convention 2014: The Uniqueness of Christ in a Multi-Faith World - Ravi Zacharias - Clayton TV

9. My Journey to Christ - Nabeel Qureshi - RZIM Video

10. What is the Hope for Humanity? A discussion of technology, politics, and theology with Bishop Tom Wright and Ross Douthat - Veritas Forum Video

11. Various other sermons available
All Souls, Langham Place
their 4,000 sermon searchable archive
St James the Less, Pimlico
Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham Alabama

Please pray for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq, for the Church of England; for Nigeria where in addition to the still missing Nigerian schoolgirls now young boys and men have been abducted along with further attrocities; for the persecuted church in the Middle East, Iran, Bangladesh and China; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; for wisdom in dealing with the Ebola outbreak in Africa and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

12. Iraq Region: Jihadis accused of new massacres in Iraq and Syria - BBC
Islamic State executed 700 people from Syrian tribe - Reuters
A timeline of ISIS terror - WWM
Iran: Imprisoned pastor threatened by IS members - Open Doors
Prayers for Iraq - Lent and Beyond

13. Nigeria: Dozens of young men abducted - Open Doors
Boko Haram Islamists Kidnap Boys From Village - Sky News
Boko Haram overruns town, kills 100 - WWM

14. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers for the Church of England - Lent and Beyond
Prayers against Ebola - Lent and Beyond
Bangladesh: Attack on nuns said to be first ever in Bangladesh - WWM
China: Zhisheng released but human rights lawyers are still being ‘disappeared’ - Lapido Media
Some details of renowned rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng's horrific torture now known - China Aid
Guo Baosheng: Forcible Cross Demolition and So-called Sinicization of Christianity - China Aid
Prayers for South Carolina - Lent and Beyond

15. Sunday Programme - current affairs with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

16. Food for thought
More craft ale, vicar? Welcome to hipster Christianity - Evening Standard
Seeing beyond the veil - Christianity Today's Woman
Naming Children: England and Wales, 2013 - David Pocklington
Baby Names in England and Wales, 2013 - OSS

17. Richard Bauckham: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - St John's Nottingham video

18. Come, be with me - Lucy Bunce and Keith Duke

19. Rising Star Byron - Mark Gee Vimeo

With acknowledgement to Pageantmaster.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The politics of Jesus - Monday 18 August 2014

Pakeha Forgetfulness

On Saturday morning the Christchurch Press frontpaged an article about Kiwi opposition to sales of farmland. This fearful approach, at least by Pakeha, highlights a form of collective amnesia. How did that farmland get to be farmland in the first place? It was bought (or 'bought') by foreigners to these shores. Last night in Christchurch and many other towns and cities, every person, even those sleeping under park benches, slept on land once bought by foreigners.

There is no sovereign right on the part of current landowners, save for Maori owners of tribal land, to refuse sale to foreigners. Put another way, there is nothing intrinsic about the occupation of NZ being the preserve of European-derived people. We may be in the process of becoming occupied by Asian-derived people. Hopefully this can be accomplished without any 'land wars'.

Worse, of course, than the incipient preservationism going on through our collective amnesia, is the almost explicit racism in which it appears that we object to sales of farms to Asians but not to Americans.

By all means, let's have a political discussion about the merits of the sale of any farmland to anyone, for example, we could reasonably and without amnesia nor racial bias discuss the question, Will the sale lead to improved economic and environmental benefits for the current inhabitants of NZ?

But let's not presume - from a Pakeha perspective - that once we accepted foreign ownership of land here from 1814 onwards we created some right to future bans of sale to foreigners!

What has this to do with the politics of Jesus? My thoughts above were inspired by preparing a sermon on the encounter between Jesus and the Canaanite mother, Matthew 15:21-28!

Whaleoil's Egregious Error

Few Kiwis can now be unaware of the existence of NZ's most popular blog, Whaleoil, run by Cameron Slater. Following the publication of Dirty Politics last week, written by Nicky Hager, Cameron Slater and various associates have been in the spotlight in respect of alleged dirty political conspiracies and connivances. Google round to read something about this. Take a grain of salt, at least in respect of whether Dirty Politics is some kind of franchise owned only by the right!

My little point in the wider, embroiling and daily-unfolding-with-new-revelations debate, is that a by-product of the 'attack' approach is to make politics a zone into which only a certain kind of elite will enter: the elite willing to engage in dark arts and to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Why would the great MPs of yesterday, the local businessperson or union official, the keen teacher or farmer rise to the challenge of becoming an MP if they are going to be the targets of muck-raking, innuendo, false allegations and what have you?

Attack politics skews the representation of the people to a small class of political operators who learn their politics at the side of a politician they work for as an assistant. From that position within the 'beltway' they learn how to handle themselves re the dark arts from the very beginning of adult working life.

But the beltway knows little about real life ... read British and American politics to see where Cameron Slater, Nicky Hager and co are taking us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Kiwi Anglicans favour decriminalization of weed?

OK, the +Bluck post on liturgy, as previously promised. With a nod to someone else who talked about the good plants and the weeds growing (!), +John talks of our liturgyscape in terms of flowers blooming with the odd weed, and, changing metaphor while citing someone else, also as 'tiger country.'

In his view the liturgical genie has been let out of the bottle and it isn't going to be shoved back in anytime soon. His wrap up leads me to a first point I want to make in response:

"Nobody knows where all this will take us the Selwyn Lecturer I introduced earlier, Philip Tovey, told us that there is no evidence that being freer or more formal in liturgy makes any difference to church growth, any more than it does being high, low, middle or messy church.
I do know that new and creative liturgy, when it’s done with clumsy words, bad taste and a hectoring tone, can exclude and alienate congregations as surely as the most archaic and irrelevant language. 
I do believe our liturgical tradition, and especially our attempts to anchor it in the imagery and experience of Aotearoa, has distilled great wisdom and beauty that we ignore at our peril. 
And I long for the day when I can sit in the back row of an Anglican church and worship God with some words and lyrics that evoke rather than instruct, celebrate where I belong, respect all sorts and conditions of fellow pilgrims around me, and just once in a while, leave a little space and silence for  the imaginings of my heart and soul that lie beyond words."

I suggest the great question before us is not first of all, Do we want the genie back in the bottle?

The great question is,

What kind of church do we wish to be as we travel into the future?

There is a sharp edgy question trailing in its wake:

Will we exist in the future?

Our church is in dire straits. The overall profile of our congregations is aging and the statistical trend of attendance is downwards. We face the real possibility that a couple of recently departing clergy and congregations will become a significant split if the Way Forward group (post GS 2014, meeting in Auckland today and tomorrow) cannot find a way to keep us together.

There is no guarantee that fifty years hence there will be an Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia.

It is not just that the church is always one generation from extinction, it is that we do not know what liturgical road is the highway we should be travelling to the future. From that confusion flows the strong possibility that we will mistakenly pursue pathways which currently look promising but in fact will be dead-ends, because current congregations will eventually die and new attendees will attend other churches.

What +John is describing is a church desperately trying to find that highway to the future. Perhaps it is following NZPB services: many congregations do that. It could be via not following NZPB services, even to the point, as a commenter on the earlier post noted, of a bishop offering his 'own' liturgy: many congregations do this. It could be via offering a menu of diversity each Sunday: many city parishes do this. (But if that is the highway, it is not open to most country parishes).

Out of this desperation to find the way to a healthy future (if not, noting Philip Tovey's observation above, to a growing future), we should be asking questions I am not convinced we are asking of ourselves. 'We' here is 'all of us who love our church'.

Such as: (in no particular order of priority)

What is working and what is not working? (Yes, to be measured by whether congregations are reverse aging and declining trends)

What would be better if we did it better? (I think this question is one of the major underlying drivers for Bosco Peters' posts on our liturgical life on his site Liturgy).

What should we stop doing (because, frankly, it belongs to a former era and has no future)? [My example: using the burse and veil!]

What value should we place on Common Prayer - the prayers we all pray together in every parish and rohe?

What rules and regulations both assist us and agreeably bind us together in one worshipping church?

In respect of the last question, it is a clear inference from +John's post that we collectively do not think much of our rules and regulations in respect of liturgy. We are not keen to see anyone criminalized for growing liturgical weed!

As for the question before that: the +Bluck post bears witness to the readily observable fact that in the age old tension between unity and diversity, we value diversity over unity.

There are a few thoughts for starters. I see Bosco has a post up about Bill 4 ... the fate of which is germane to the issues above.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Apparently there is no difference between Anglicans and ISIS

The Chairman of the Latin Mass Society writes a - let's be diplomatic - interesting post here.

If you are a sensitive Anglican soul I do not advise reading it. Nor for that matter if your Anglican blood boils easily.

But for the robust among us, read on to find that because ISIS beheads people as an expression of religious extremism and Anglicans once beheaded people because of religious extremism and both are in error relative to the Catholic true faith, there is much in common between ISIS and Anglicans.

Fortunately in the comments some good points are made in response. It is the ones the chairman does not reply to which are of great interest. My own response is that he minimises the political context of England in the 16th century. The executions by both Protestants and Catholics when in power were responses to fears of political takeover as much as deeds to destroy the "other's" faith. By contrast in Northern Iraq and Syria, Christians and Yazidis pose no political threat and have lived side by side with Muslims for centuries, including during the previous Ottoman Caliphate.

Nevertheless the Chairman's thoughts show that one can defend the worst excesses of militancy and persecution in the name of the true faith with logical flair, providing ultimately the justifying reason is that it is done in the name of the truth and nothing but the truth ... oh, wait, isn't that what ISIS is doing?

But the Chairman also makes the claim that Anglicanism subsequent to the 16th century has turned into "drippy nonsense."

Naturally that claim will lead you, dear reader, as it does me, to ponder the state of liturgical life in ACANZP today. As a prelude to something I am working on re that state, read what +John Bluck has to say about the one hundred flowers of our liturgical life which are currently blooming.

You might like to ask whether another view of our liturgy is "drippy nonsense"?!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Richard Bauckham's Burns Lectures Live Streamed

This week and next Professor Richard Bauckham is in Dunedin giving the Burns Lectures for 2014.

It is possible to watch them live streamed and/or podcasted via the University of Otago.

I have been given these details:

"... live streaming the 6 Burns Lectures. This is the address for the live stream:

And this is the address for the test stream

Afterwards (hopefully by lunchtime the next day in each case), the podcasts will be available at:"

As for the topics of the lectures:

"Thomas Burns Memorial Lectures 2014
by Professor Richard Bauckham

“The Sons of Zebedee:
the Lives of Two Galilean Fishers”

1. The World of the Lake of Galilee
Tuesday August 12, 5.15pm, Archway 2 Lecture Theatre

2. The Fishing Industry
Wednesday August 13, 5.15pm, Archway 2 Lecture Theatre

3. Zebedee and Sons
Thursday August 14, 5.15pm, Archway 2 Lecture Theatre

4. Called to Fish for People
Tuesday August 19, 5.15pm, Archway 2 Lecture Theatre

5. Sons of Thunder
Wednesday August 20, 5.15pm, Archway 2 Lecture Theatre

6. Jerusalem
Thursday August 21, 5.15pm, Archway 2 Lecture Theatre"

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Politics of Jesus - Monday 11 August 2014

This week - especially pushed for receding mirages of time - I am going to let +John Bluck do the talking.

He does have a way with words, here.

Links - Monday 11 August 2014

(I am going to trial here a reproduction of a weekly 'links' service provided by a commenter here, Pageantmaster, which is also reproduced on other sites. The reproduction is made without redaction by me).

What a dark week it has been for the persecuted church and man's inhumanity to man.  To some considerable degree that colours what follows, and has led to an examination of the hope in Christ to break out of the cycle of sin.  Prayer and proclamation seems to be key.

#5 How Christianity's message struck home to a war weary Maori people related by Charlie Hughes; #6 William Taylor considers the tragedy of sin and yet the unchanging hope in the character of God; #7 Jonathan Redfearn with some helpful suggestions on how to pray effectively.

Perhaps some of the following articles if a rather lengthy list develop these themes further and Christian leaders in Iraq have asked us to pray for them today.

I hope all is well and prayers for the coming week

1. The bells of the Parish Church of St Thomas, Norbury in Hazel Grove, Stockport - BBC Radio 4

2. Sunday Holy Communion livestreamed from St Helena's Church, Beaufort, South Carolina at 10:15 am Eastern Time, 3:15 pm London Time

3. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

4. Some archived choral services during the holidays from the chapel of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge

5. How Christianity Came to the Maori people - Charlie Hughes - Harvest Church Henderson Audio

6. Human Wickedness and the Grace of God - William Taylor - St Helen's Video [Genesis 34:1-31]

7. How to pray effectively - Jonathan Redfearn [James 5] - Clayton TV

8. Various other sermons available
All Souls, Langham Place
their 4,000 sermon searchable archive
St James the Less, Pimlico
Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham Alabama

Please pray for the Christians of and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq, for the Church of England and for the release and rescue of the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls; for the persecuted church in the Middle East, Nigeria, Iran, Sudan, Kenya; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; for wisdom in dealing with the Ebola outbreak in Africa and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

9. Iraq: Please pray today for Iraq - the request of Christian leaders there:
Prayers for Iraq - Lent and Beyond
A Reminder: Crisis in Iraq - five things you can ACTUALLY do to help - Christian Today
Islamic State killed 500 Yazidis, buried some victims alive - Arab News
Islamic State Seizes Iraq's Christian Capital: Qaraqosh - Christianity Today
Qaraqosh falls, thousands flee - WWM
Religious Liberty Commission statement on the plight of Christians and other minorities in Iraq - There are also many pleas from Christian leaders around the world
Canon Andrew White on BBC Newsnight - FRRME

10. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers for the Church of England - Lent and Beyond
Prayers against Ebola - Lent and Beyond
Middle East: Message from Bishop Mouneer Anis
Nigeria: Gunmen attack Catholic church in Kaduna State - CSW
Iran: Pastor Matthias Haghnejad - Pastor charged with "war against god" - CSW
Sudan: Meriam Ibrahim's husband describes being terrorised by 'Agents of Fear' - Christian Today
Eritrea: Eritrea Faces Human Rights Investigation - CSW Video
South Carolina News
More news may be collected here:

11. Sunday Programme - current affairs with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

12. WWI Anniversary
Remembering the Great War: Seven lessons we must learn 100 years on - Christian Today
What chaplains did in wartime... - Christian Today
Memory and Delivery: World War One - Bishop Graham Kings
Archbishop Sentamu's Lament for Suffering

13. Food for thought
Some Hard Truths behind Israel/Gaza and Iraq/ISIS - Thomas Creedy
The Assisted Dying Bill & The Gospel : Our Culture Has Replaced the Fear of Death With the Fear of Dying - John Stephens
The Loss Of a Friend To Suicide - Fr Dale Matson
Baptist minister Ergun Caner reveals 'excruciating pain' after son's suicide - Christian Today
Joey Barton: how could a loving God stand by and watch suffering? - Dr Vince Vitale - Christian Today
Belonging Before Believing – A Recipe for a Dying Church - David Robertson
Consider Jesus: Living in Dead Churches - Justin Buzzard - CP Op-Ed
Serenading the cattle with my trombone - Farmer Derek Klingenberg

14. The Character and Purpose of God - St Helen's Video

15. The Way - Worship Central

16. New Zealand - J&K Schwartz

God bless

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stop the slaughter

The Archbishop of Canterbury writes,

"The horrific events in Iraq rightly call our attention and sorrow yet again. Christians and other religious minorities are being killed and face terrible suffering.

What we are seeing in Iraq violates brutally people’s right to freedom of religion and belief, as set out under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is extremely important that aid efforts are supported and that those who have been displaced are able to find safety. I believe that, like France, the United Kingdom’s doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history.
The international community must document human rights abuses being committed in northern Iraq so that future prosecutions can take place. It is important and necessary for the international community to challenge the culture of impunity which has allowed these atrocities to take place.
With the world’s attention on the plight of those in Iraq, we must not forget that this is part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith. Only this week I received an email from a friend in Northern Nigeria about an appalling attack on a village, where Christians were killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Such horrific stories have become depressingly familiar in countries around the world, including Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
We must continue to cry to God for peace and justice and security throughout the world. Those suffering such appalling treatment in Iraq are especially in my prayers at this time."

Note the emboldened words in which ++Justin speaks up for all persecuted Christians. He does not spell it out but the 'evil pattern' is a pattern of slaughter through one and only one religion.

Do we find their leaders spelling out in clear and unmistakable terms that persecution of Christians is wrong?

POSTSCRIPT: I despair of this kind of writing in which the USA gets blamed not once but twice for the beheadings of Christians and Yazidis. There are many ways to fill a power vacuum that have nothing to do with driving people from their residences and even less to do with beheadings. Fail!

INCIDENTALLY I have deliberately said little re Israel v Gaza, partly because others are better qualified. (OK, that applies to most of what I write!) But Sam Harris says something interesting here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Annulment: a theological fiction?


I am grateful for all comments received below, some of which have challenged my thinking here. While travelling yesterday I had a chance to reflect a bit on what I am trying to achieve by raising this question. I think it is this. As churches come under pressure of social change in respect of human sexuality, debates rage between 'sides', debates which reflect the conservativism of the church (how we have conceived things till now) and the liberalism of the church (where might God be taking us into a new future). One outcome of such debates is that conservatives leave a church for a church perceived to be a bastion of conservatism, another outcome is that liberals leave a church for a church perceived to be a beacon of liberalism. For Anglicans one option has typically been to leave for the Roman Catholic church. My point here is that Rome itself is under pressure from social change, signified by the Kasper v Muller debate and the Pope's own raising of questions he wishes to see addressed. That pressure has a pressure point around the process of annulment which is an attempt to conservatively uphold the teaching of Jesus while liberally responding to the facts of dissolved marriages. Whether Rome makes any changes via forthcoming conferencing will be interesting to observe. If it does not make change, my question re annulment stands: is it a convenient fiction which enables a certain kind of balance between conservativism and liberalism to be maintained?

I have also had this mischievous thought re same sex marriage: are such marriages - if agreed to by the church - dissolvable since Jesus spoke only about the indissolubility of marriage between a man and a woman?

Picking up from a previous post which cites William Oddie as he argues that in a theological wrestle between Cardinals Kasper and Muller on the question of Roman pastoral response to divorce and remarriage, Pope Francis will go with Muller, I am on Kasper's side. Though his detailed arguments may not be mine!

In that post I asked for your responses to this citation of NY Times columnist Ross Douthat's outlining key theological issues - underlined by me - in the matter:

"“whatever individuals and pastors decide to take upon their own consciences, declaring the reception of Communion licit for the remarried-but-not-annulled in any systematic way seems impossible without real changes — each with its own potential doctrinal ripples — to one or more of three theologically-important Catholic ideas: The understanding that people in grave sin should not generally receive the Eucharist, the understanding that adultery is always a grave sin, and/or the understanding that a valid sacramental marriage is indissoluble.”"

Thank you for responses made!

Here is my response, offered at this point as a 'response' more than a 'refutation', the former being a contribution to debate, the latter would be an ending of the debate on the basis that I am right and the whole apparatus of Roman theology is wrong. I am not quite that confident of my ability!

The questions I have are these:

(1) Is it consistent with the teaching of Jesus to foster an interlocking teaching whose application is such as to place people in a state of sin from which repentance is impossible?

Jesus deemed that only one sin was unforgivable and that was not remarriage after divorce! Put another way, where is the way forward to the reception of communion for a Christian who (say, through no fault of their own) is unable to secure annulment for their marriage yet for whom a new marriage is a right and proper action (say, in order to secure protection and provision for the person's family)?

(As I understand Kasper's position, and the reason for Pope Francis raising the matter of eucharist and the divorced at a forthcoming conference, this kind of question is driving whatever reconsideration of the matter which is going on in Vatican circles).

(2) Is it consistent with the teaching of Jesus to foster a distinction between 'sacramental marriage' and 'marriage'?

In Roman application of its understanding of annulment, (as I understand it) Roman Catholic juridical authority can decide that if X and Y, having consummated a marriage, produced offspring and lived a married life in a domestic home for 20 years, then divorce [according to civic authority], their divorce is not a divorce-as-Jesus-understood-it and a prospective new marriage for either or both husband and wife after the civil divorce and the church's annulment is not adultery-as-Jesus-understood-it.

In seeking to be faithful to Jesus' teaching a (monstrous?) fiction appears to be aided and abetted by the juridical system and sacramental theology surrounding annulment. As Ross Douthat's article points out, the statistics suggest a theological rort is going on because American Catholics constitute 6% of the world's Catholic population yet 60% of all annulments occur among their marriages!

For this Anglican at least, it is a little odd that the Roman theology of marriage fosters a distinction between marriage and sacramental marriage. Why do I say that? Because the same theological apparatus does not distinguish between baptism when Anglicans and other Christians practice it and sacramental baptism practised according to Roman rite. Why is there 'one baptism' but not 'one marriage'?

A further point of exploration under question (2) is why canonical law attends so intently to what Jesus said about marriage/divorce/remarriage/adultery in relation to sacramental action via priesthood when Jesus said zilch about the role of any commissioned servants in performing marriage rites!

(3) On the specific logic involved in the argument, "The understanding that people in grave sin should not generally receive the Eucharist, the understanding that adultery is always a grave sin, and/or the understanding that a valid sacramental marriage is indissoluble:"

I am going to be a Henrician Anglican: marriages can be dissolved. That is reality. Non-Henrician Anglicans get that, and I bet that most American Catholics involved in the 60% of annulled marriages around the Catholic globe get that too.

Kasper, I am sure, is alive the the reality of dissolved marriages and he is too smart a theologian not to understand the theological fiction which is involved in annulment. Ross Douthat describes the development in annulment over the centuries like this:

"Historically, Catholic marriages could be annulled (that is, declared to have been invalid from the beginning) for a fairly narrow range of reasons — a failure to consummate the union, consanguinity, the existence of a previous marriage, etc. 

But in recent decades, especially in the frequently-divorcing West, the range of justifications for annulling a marriage has expanded to include a much larger range of factors, psychological and emotional and intellectual, which might demonstrate that one or both members of a couple entering into a marriage basically didn’t understand what they were getting into, didn’t have a fully Christian understanding of the sacrament or fully Christian intentions to live it out, and thus weren’t capable of the kind of true consent that a true marriage definitionally requires. And the (incorrect, but understandable) popular view of the annulment process as a kind of “Catholic divorce” flows from this more expansive list of reasons why a marriage might be declared null and void, and from the more expansive consequences: The United States, ground zero for the approach, has 6 percent of the world’s Catholics and about 60 percent of the world’s annulments."

It is incomprehensible that Kasper's fine theological mind does not recognise that this is a theological fiction (i.e. it pretends that a real marriage has not been dissolved when it has). Yes, it is a very fine fiction because it successfully holds the line on indissolubility, as Douthat also observes:

"But the debate notwithstanding, nobody denies that an annulment process of some kind is compatible with the traditional Catholic view of marriage’s indissolubility, and I think that most critics of the American way of annulment would concede that a form that considers psychological and cultural factors, while prone to practical abuses, doesn’t introduce any inherent logical tensions into the church’s teaching on marriage."

So the general point is that Roman theology without this theological fiction it would face just the same issue as Anglican (and other Protestant) theologies face re marriage and divorce: it happens, there is a lot of it, many divorced persons remarry and they wish to receive the eucharist after repentance and do not wish to have the eucharist withheld because they are in state where repentance is impossible.

Now at precisely this point in the examination of the argument there are no grounds for Anglican triumphalism. We may think poorly of the logic of annulment but we have no great track record on how to improve the situation regarding marriage and supporting permanency of marriages rather than frequently finding ourselves responding to its breakdown.

We might edge ahead of Rome on an 'honesty in theology' basis, but we are no further ahead on a 'faithful to Jesus' teaching' basis.

I'll publish this tonight. I may repent of what I have written and rewrite it a little. I look forward to your comments.