Monday, September 29, 2014

I'll keep going on the politics of Jesus - Monday 29 September 2014

Post election political life is a little less exciting. Yet there is much too ponder for the follower of Jesus intent on working out the politics of Jesus here on earth in 2014. My particular zealous interest this past week has been on what it means to be 'left', 'Labour', 'socialist'. Sparked by numerous recriminations and reflections following the gazumping of both the left of NZ politics and the Labour Party, I have also been following the British Labour Party conference in which similar recriminatory thoughts seemed to be at work over which Labour Party will win the next election.

I quite agree with those pundits who have made the point that some policies promoted by the left should not be thought of as leftist but simple fairnesses at the centre of society (e.g. removing child poverty which, funnily enough, our PM has made significant noises about this week). Nevertheless perhaps the left has stronger motivation and passion to address such matters?

I can also agree with those arguing a principled approach to politics which says, "We are working for the implementation of our principles, no matter whether they are popular or not." Stick to that, avoid gaining votes from middle NZ (or Britain) by compromising, by all means. However I would prefer that no further talk comes from your mouths about what you will do in government! In a nutshell this is where the so called 'hard left' or 'socialist wing' of the Labour Party (plural if we include Britain) are or should be at. That's fine, but life has moved on from dear old Karl making his daily pilgrimage to the British Museum to write his prognostications on the proletariat in the midst of the industrial revolution.

But what if the respective Labour Parties wish to regain the government benches. Surely there must be a reckoning with what it will take to be elected? Even more surely, this must take such parties towards the middle of society, asking what will appeal to the middle. An appeal which appeals, to be sure, to the social conscience and sense of fair play of the middle, yet an appeal which does not trash the hopes and aspirations of the middle classes. The middle masses today are not quasi-socialists, one election of a 'real' Labour government away from dropping the 'quasi-'.

The middle masses today are capitalists. They like growing personal capital (especially owning their own homes and small businesses, with opportunity to share in larger businesses via the sharemarket). They want top dollar when they sell a car and to pay bottom dollar when they buy - they think markets are a good thing (albeit keen to retain state-funded education and health services).

If there is one significant error eating away at the voting share of both the NZ Labour Party and British Labour Party it is the not so hidden presumption that these parties do not really embrace capitalism. I think the voters see and hear that, and are nervous. Blair's Labour Party and Lange/Douglas then Clarke/Cullen's Labour Party did embrace capitalism and the voters trusted them enough to re-elect them several times.

But the current amazing embarrassment at the success of Labour governments under those paradigms serves the present parties poorly. In reacting to what is interpreted as a period of socialist heresy (i.e. a reign of neo-liberal 'terror'(!)), these two Labour Parties are returning to principles but have not let go of aspirations to govern again.

No one can serve two masters. As best I can understand the two situations, both the NZ and British Labour Parties are torn between wanting to be faithful socialists and wanting to be in government. To be the latter they need voters who do not agree with the former principles. That is a bit of calculus which does not yield a positive sum!

Are they doomed to never return to power?

Probably not. One day electoral sanity will return.

But, in the meantime, how many people will suffer because governments in NZ and the UK will not be constrained by leftist motivations to build fair capitalist societies and to eradicate poverty?


I have noticed here in NZ some talk about our electoral cycle in which the norm is swapping between National and Labour led governments of two to three terms each. Well, I have news for you: there is another electoral pattern, produced through 1949-1975 in which twenty six years of government produced just 2 x three year periods for Labour. Who is to say that we have not returned to that pattern? Wake up, Labour!!

Spiritual and Sacred Links - Monday 29 September 2014

(Supplied by an English colleague)

I hope some of this will be encouraging and that you are richly blessed and rewarded by a deepening relationship with God this coming week.


1. The bells of All Saints, Harpole, in Northamptonshire - BBC Radio 4

2. Sunday Service from Emmanuel Church, Didsbury - BBC Radio 4

3. Choral Evensong from Derby Cathedral - 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. Archived choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge

7. Andy Hawthorne, founder of the Message Trust - BBC Radio 5 Live - MP3
or online [26 September]

8. Evangelism - Chris Russell - Fulcrum Pivot Point Audio [starts 8mins 30 secs in]
9. Putting God First: Christian Wholeness - Bishop Graham Kings - St Paul's Sherborne Audio [Romans 12:1-21]

10. The Ethics of Sex, Marriage, and the Family - Professor Christopher Seitz - North American Lutheran Church Conference, Charleston Video
Text – ACI

Please pray for the Ebola Crisis this week; for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq; for the persecuted church and in particular in the Middle East, Nigeria, Egypt, China and Hong Kong; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

11. Iraq Region:
What's the threat of Islamic State to the Church worldwide? – WWM
more Media Reports from FRRME

12. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Ebola: Sept 29 – Oct 5: A week of prayer for the Ebola Crisis - Lent and Beyond
Nigeria and Senegal: stable – for the moment – WHO
Egypt: Newsletter from Bishop Mouneer Anis
China: Children arrested during raid on Chinese church – ICC
Hong Kong: Tear gas and clashes at democracy protest - BBC News
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

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

14. Food for thought
Muslims need Truth and Love - Mark Durie - Bible Society Australia
Praying for ISIS - J John
Way of Truth and Justice: Understanding Islamic Law Khaled Abou El Fadl - ABC Religion
Luther: The monk who wasn't good enough - Nathan Buzenitz
I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep - Glen Scrivener - The King's English
Sharing the Gospel simply - Leon Brown

15. How do Christians approach the workplace? - St Helen's Vimeo

16. Beautiful Scotland - JohnDuncan Vimeo

Friday, September 26, 2014

Can I be bothered?

There was a time here on ADU when I got quite bothered by what ++Katharine Jefferts Schori was up to or whom or which diocese she was down on. Now that she is likely not seeking re-election as PB of TEC (noting Preludium's astute point about the fine subtlety of her precise words) I find myself not much bothered.

I am wondering why!

Possibly it is because my previous bothering was linked to the future of the Communion, a future which ++KJS (and other like-minded leaders) seemed intent on driving towards a specific, and to my mind uncongenial character. (Anglican Curmudgeon has a post on the 'unraveling' of the Communion which is worth a glance at this time.)

Now, I wonder whether the Communion is so fractured, its nets torn and frayed, its warm bonds of affection cooled to the point of freeze that the future of global Anglicanism lies elsewhere than in a TEC-shaped Communion.

Where the else is, I am not sure. Quite possibly with the Global South movement.

Perhaps also my lack of bother is due to the pressing concerns of our own church in the South Seas. We face our own fractures unless we - better the Spirit of God - can persuade ourselves that we can find new paths for remaining together in the face of considerable diversity. (Behind that sentence lies a longish paper which one day may see the light of day here).

One of the contributory causes of our pressing concerns is the example of TEC. Under ++Katharine's presidency it has failed - in my view - to show the rest of the Communion how to live with diversity of approach to controversial issues. Consequently, down here, Down Under, I worry that fellow Kiwi Anglicans assume there is only one way to incorporate the blessing of same sex partnerships: at the expense of those who disagree. Hovering over our church at this time of Motion 30 seems to be the spectre of TEC: 'as they have gone, so must we' lurks in the background of some conversations.

I reckon we can find another way. There is a win-win way forward. All may stay, none need go. Where TEC has gone, we do not need to go.

I can be bothered fighting for the future of ACANZP!

PS Here is the most adulatory commendation of the PB you could imagine yourself writing.

PPS Can any American readers enlighten us on trouble at the General Theological Seminary? The staff are on strike!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chloe's Pink Slippers Are Very Fluffy (2 of 3)

In 1998 I voted at General Synod for flexibility in the use of our church's authorised services of worship, to include the possibility of services prepared with minimal reference to written authorised prayers of our church (providing nevertheless that conformity to our doctrine was maintained).

In doing so I and others did not realise that we were going to end up with Chloe's pink fluffy slippers, as adroitly described by +John Bluck

But I think we knew that we were looking for canonical blessing of considerable liturgical diversity because that already existed, both within evangelical havens such as the Diocese of Nelson and in other circles, including experiences of worship at General Synod or the Inter Diocesan Conference itself!

Would I do the same today?

To give an answer to that question which is as simple and as clear as I can make it, I need first to take you (briefly) on a corporate and personal history.

The corporate history is outlined by various posts @ Liturgy (most recently here). In sum, after 1998 GS embarked on further loosening of the canons governing liturgy with one slight sign of regret when it passed a resolution about the so called Template designed to tell free-for-all liturgists that they didn't mean for the Template to be as unbounded as it looked. (With that resolution (IMHO) GS effectively gutted the Template of its substance as a vehicle for wide-ranging flexibility in worshop. The Template now authorised flexibility that could not go beyond what was already in the prayer book!) In short, through these decisions we are now in rather a messy situation. So messy that the attempt of GS 2014 to try to tidy up a small aspect of the mess is being resisted!

From being the Vicar of the Parish of Blenheim South, my personal history was that I went in 2001 to become ministry educator for the Diocese of Nelson and then in 2010 to a similar role here in the Diocese of Christchurch. Through some of that period I have simultaneously been part time Priest in Charge of parishes. That's nearly fourteen years of training lay and ordained people in leadership of worship, of visiting many parishes in the central and upper two-thirds of the South Island and generally engaging in formal and informal conversations about Anglican worship as well as in occasional and regular bursts of leading worship.

I have learned a thing or two these last fourteen years! In particular from Bosco Peters, both through reading Liturgy, engaging with comments here and there and through personal conversation. In particular I have learned the importance of common prayer, the prayer we pray together because we have agreed that this (i.e. the Book of Common Prayer and A New Zealand Prayer Book) will be our prayer - an agreement reached through our synodical processes and renewed each time lay and clerical ministers accept a licence from their bishop.

But I also learned that our Prayer Book (1989), without any further subsequent decisions by General Synod, has for the adept and skilful liturgist, considerable flexibility. The clue lies in the rubrical word 'may'. Every 'may' means you can omit that bit, thus freeing the service to incorporate other freely chosen aspects of worship (e.g. drama, additional music, testimony).

If that was all to consider, my answer would be ...

No, I would not agree again to changing the rubrics on p. 511 of NZPB. If I could go back to 1998 I would vote against the change I agreed to, supposing the above liturgical considerations were all that mattered.

Further, I would vote for the Template to be removed from our books, I would not agree to the use of eucharistic prayers from other churches of the Anglican Communion (no doubt fine, but why did we spend 25 years+ composing our own?) and I would generally embark on revision of the various prayers we have agreed to, in order to pare us back to greater commonality in our prayer together. (I would not, however, agree to there being one single communion service. A little diversity is good.)

But that is not all to consider, so my answer is ... 

My own liturgical journey, however, has simultaneously been a journey with a church encountering changing contexts. Our great Western and our local Kiwi culture has not stood still these last twenty-five years since the publication of NZPB in 1989. A number of important features of congregational life are now different. Changes in culture and in language mean that the missional and generational challenges for the conducting of liturgy are different. The decisions by GS over these years to offer more diversity of approved prayers and greater flexibility have been an attempt to engage with the changing world in which the church lives.

But significant questions buzz round my mind concerning the present and future of our Anglican church in 21st century Aotearoa NZ.

My third post in the series will continue towards my answer to the question I have posed.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Only remember the poor - the politics of Jesus - Monday 22 September 2014

For the first time ever under our MMP system, one party (on the count as I write) has achieved the hitherto thought impossible dream of governing alone. That the National Party has done so at the end of two terms, and in the face of the 'kitchen sink' of dirt being thrown at its leadership will go down in NZ history.

At the helm of this triumph is not a Prime Minister but a phenomenon, John Key. He is the rock star of NZ politics. Love him or hate him (and, believe me, any overseas readers reading here, some hate him with an intensity a decent family blog such as this cannot convey), John Key is not just a rock star. He is the rock face which any wannabe alternative has to climb.

Yesterday's result showed the rock face had no ropes. few toeholds, and just the odd crack to jam a finger into.

Let's leave John Key to present political scientists and future historians to analyse. We'll also by-pass the jeremiads which are now enveloping David Cunliffe's leadership of the Labour Party (suffice to say that, IMHO, he should stay. He can and will get better). A momentary linger at the fate of the Internet Mana movement is called for: I so wanted them to not win a seat but I didn't realise most of NZ shared my wish. Top quality sledge against IM from the winner of Te Tai Tokerau, Kelvin Davis, "all steam and no hangi."

No, what we need to quickly get to is the poor in our country. Their situation has not changed overnight. My general sense is that their situation has not become worse (because National will continue to preside over a strong economy which underpins current welfare arrangements and which continues to distribute money from the wealthy to the poor). But what could make it better?

If God has - as many theologians argue (including me) - a bias towards the poor, then what steps - politically - are the next steps in the light of yesterday's result?

1. National could do things differently. But the result places them under no pressure to do so.
2. Some new political movement could arise which would challenge the popularity of the National Party. See above re the rock face! See also the results and how leftwing parties fared badly. At best they achieved approximately 37% of the vote. There is no foreseeable traction ahead for a new leftwing movement.
3. Some attempt could be made to improve the electoral fortunes of the party of fairness, Labour.

I suggest (3) is worth working on. More knowledgeable people than me are already proposing remedies. Josie Pagani is worth a read, both here (written today) and there (written previously). Clayton Cosgrove, a local Labour MP has this to say:

""I visited a meat works recently and asked members on the line, actually what the boys and girls on the chain thought of us, and the key message reflected in the verdict of the people was that they don't have a lot in common with us," Cosgrove said.

"The message was: 'You guys just deal with minutiae and fringe issues, you should be articulating the needs and concerns that we have'. Those people who say the silly left, right thing, the truth is that thousands of Labour voters elected Mr Key and we need to reflect on that.
"The plumber, the freezing worker, the little guy who's now [got his] own carpenter shop, the SME (small business), these were all once Labour voters and if you don't progress with people as they evolve and change, people feel completely disengaged."

Rather than wax on about some of my own ideas for change in Labour, let's just say that Labour needs to rediscover its 'fairness' mojo.

Ditching the leader will not do that.

As Pagani notes, its about a deep change, very deep.

Cosgrove's point is that the change needs to know which direction it is going in: back towards the working person. Back towards understanding that jobs matter more than letting trees rot on the forest floor. Back towards understanding that tradies are more concerned about a vibrant economy wanting their skills than whether Labour is against using animals for testing. Back towards understanding that working people who are not rich 1 percenters aspire to own a rental property as an investment they can put sweat equity into and may not be enamoured about a Capital Gains Tax (i.e. introducing a CGT needs to be argued on the basis of fair taxes, not on the basis of envy).

A bit of blood on the floor through a hasty leadership change may see the blood dribbling across the floor in the wrong direction.

Only if the Labour can make that change will it re-find the political centre - the voters who, extraordinarily, especially in Auckland, voted in droves for Labour MPs to represent them and gave their party votes to National.

For those disappointed on behalf of the poor of NZ that a National government has not only been re-elected but given a huge vote of confidence, the next step is to reform the Labour Party.

Students of NZ political history might note that 'reform' is an ironic word in this context. One of the predecessors of the National Party was the Reform Party!

Middle NZ is where elections are won or lost. I do not think middle NZ is averse to Labour working as government for a fair society. But this election seems to be saying to Labour that middle NZ is averse to possibilities that  Labour might be part of an unstable government, that Labour might make life harder for small businesses (e.g. by abolishing the 90 day probation period for new employees), that Labour might be talking unachievable talk (e.g. building 10000 houses a year) and that Labour might be talking down the reality of life (in this election they talked down the obviously 'up' economy).

Middle NZ is smart, astute and discerning. Voters from that large bloc have clearly said on Saturday night that they do not believe or trust what Labour had on offer. Even less so the Greens.

The biggest mistake each party could make is to dismiss middle NZ as dupes who have (once again) voted for the 'smile and wave' style of John Key. If Labour wishes to lead a government again it must treat middle NZ with respect, understand its heartbeat and connect to its hopes and aspirations.

From a Christian perspective, our concern for the poor means we pray for and work with the appointed government for the betterment of society and we pray for and work with the opposition to both keep the government honest and to develop a better vision going forward into the 21st century.

Sacred and Spiritual links - Monday 22 September 2014

1. The bells of St. John the Baptist, Burford in Oxfordshire - BBC Radio 4

2. Opening Prayer - Canon Andrew White - C-Span Video

3. Choral Vespers from Neresheim Abbey with the Royal Academy of Music Chamber Choir - 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. Archived choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge

7. What Counts with God? - Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrew's Singapore Audio

8. Christ's View of Scripture - Bishop John Tan - St Andrew's Singapore Audio

9. Talks by William Taylor on Going Global: The Message which can't be ignored - St Helen's Media

Please pray for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq; for the persecuted church and in particular in the Middle East, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabian 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.

10. Iraq Region: Iraqi Christians pray close to front line of Islamic State attacks - Christian Today
Iraqi Erbil priest: "We aim to treat our refugees as guests" – WWM
Greetings from the USA - Canon Andrew White
more Media Reports from FRRME

11. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers against Ebola - Lent and Beyond
Nigeria: Nigeria: Terror attacks in three states – CSW
Nigerian Christians: 'We are on the run' – WWM
CAR: Two pastors among 100s killed as UN takes over peacekeeping in CAR – WWM
Pakistan: One year after the Peshawar church bombing, we interview Bishop Humphrey Peters – CSW
Saudi Arabia: Christian prayer group arrested in Saudi Arabia - Christian Today
China: China: Two more Nanle church detainees sentenced in Henan – CSW
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

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

13. Food for thought
Scottish Independence and other news – BRIN
Loving the Lost: Churches Without the Broken are Broken Churches - Ed Stetzer
The nature of forgiveness and non-judgement - Sam Norton
Scottish independence: 'The wounds of this campaign will take years to heal' - Gillan Scott
Church of England Beat the Vatican in Cricket Match – TalkTalkVideo

14. The Word of God - St Helen's Vimeo

15. Old Man River - Roderick Williams - BBC Proms 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Democracy is awesome!

Scotland, Fiji and now Aotearoa New Zealand. The people have spoken. Decisively, unexpectedly (on some prior polls and prognostications) and, especially in NZ's recent outbreak of lunacies, sensibly.

It is wonderful that each country is testimony to the capacity of the ballot box to convey the voice of the people, each one counting equally, with peace and in peace. No bullets, no beheadings.

I feel a great joy within me at the power of democracy.

Incidentally, without explanation and with no offence to the people of Scotland or New Zealand, the greatest result of this week is the outcome of the Fijian election.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Your kingdom come ... in Britain/Scotland ... Aotearoa NZ ... Australia ... Fiji

My next instalment of Chloe's fluffy pink slippers can be delayed till next week, not least because it is not yet completed!

In any case there is something more important to do today and that is to pray.

I love the brevity of the most powerful prayer we ever pray, Your kingdom come!

That must be our prayer everyday but it is especially the case today as we here in NZ close in on our 2014 election, as voting is completed in the referendum in Scotland and as Australia faces the reality of let's behead random strangers terrorism within its own cities.

Of course that prayer is, so to speak, even more fervently to be prayed in places such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, Ukraine, South Sudan and Nigeria.

We can pray, incidentally, with thanksgiving as we cast an eye on the election just concluded in Fiji. The people there have spoken decisively in favour of a way forward which (as far as I can tell) is much better for all Fijian citizens than previous ways.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

After Saturday the lunatics could be in charge of the (bad pun coming up) asylum


Since I posted earlier this morning, more  and more evidence of the spirit of lunacy descending upon our great nation keeps rolling in.

First there is this mad interview with Winston Peters on Morning Report. Give Guyon Espiner a DB!

Secondly there is the news that the Conservative Party's press secretary has quit two days out from the election. She seems to think her former boss is 'manipulative.'

There is a reason someone invented the phrase 'lunatic fringe' ...

Our election is the farce-iest one I can ever recall. (Memory fairly strong back to 1975 - the year of the worst attack ad in NZ history!)

In these last days before the apocalypse I observe to you the following ...

The godlessness or polytheistic-ness of most of our party leaders: this intriguing NZ Herald article offers a series of video clips re party political leaders answers to a variety of questions. The first of which is the 'God' question. (Warning: video here may be shocking to American readers!!)

Only two leaders profess to faith in the Christian God. One of them is a proud Anglican (and son of a vicar): GO DAVID! Full marks to David Cunliffe, leader of the Labour Party for fronting up to the question and owning his upbringing!

A sobering article about the possible infiltration of the NSA into NZ iLife explains (IMHO) how both Edward Snowden can be right about electronic surveillance here and the possibility of two NSA bases (specifically in Auckland and north of Auckland) and John Key can be right that our GCSB is not mass surveying our comms and that he has no knowledge of NSA bases here.

(The last part of the article loses the plot re abuse of intelligence: only paranoia fuels that kind of thinking. NZ deserves better of its journalists and our top political leaders, Labour or National, need some trust from us.

To draw the attention of the NSA to the importance of Anglican Down Under in fermenting global revolution I print these two words: PALANTIR INTERNATIONAL. We are onto you guys!)

Incidentally, speaking of the torrent of revelations pouring into NZ life this week courtesy of the holy/unholy trinity of Greenwald, Snowden and Assange, you would be forgiven for thinking that the following words are drawn from an article about NZ: "the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare." No, wait, that's drawn from an article about Snowden's BFF as he rewrites the history of Ukraine!

What we should be talking about this week which has been hijacked by Dotcon's obsession with bringing down the government so he can usher in a government which will prevent his extradition to the USA is the plight of the poor in NZ. Unfortunately the leftwing have lost sight of the proper goal of the left which is to find ways and means to create a fair society. In the sight of all of us should be matters such as access to affordable housing. Well, I have a solution to the crisis of rapidly rising house prices (among the least affordable in the West): ban helicopters.

(PS Does the Russian family know how much it rains in Picton?)

Back to Edward Snowden. Whether we think him a saint because he blew the whistle on US secrets or a sinner because he vowed not to blow the whistle and went ahead and did it anyway (possibly recklessly at the cost of agents' lives), to give him asylum is an incredibly nutjob thing to do if you wish to remain a friend of the USA.

But don't worry, Dotcon is onto it. If his party forms part of the support of a leftwing government after Saturday he will be pressuring it to offer NZ as an asylum for Snowden. Cue my heading for today's post.

Overseas readers may not understand that all of the above is driving voters to consider the Winston First Party. Winston Peters has had more political resurrections than Lazarus and the widow of Nain's son added together! His smile these days is wider than the cat which ate the cream. To think that he could hold our country to ransom for six weeks while he makes up his mind whom he will crown as PM ...

Remember the great prophet Shakespeare foresaw this day in the Antipodes: those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad!

Postscripted clarity: There are prospective coalitions, leftwards and rightwards, which will not involve 'lunatics running the asylum' scenarios. I respect both David Cunliffe and John Key as prospective Prime Ministers of our excellent country. It is the fringes of possible coalitions they might end up forming which concern me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

3 DOWN Are Kiwis constitutionally bound to madness? (1,7) [Hint: Key]

We are three days out from an election. Overseas readers will recognise that the (depending on your point of view) holy/unholy trinity of Greenwald, Assange and Snowden visiting our country over recent days has had the potential to skew our election. (Incidentally, only one of the trinity 'incarnated' themselves here, can you guess which two were only 'spiritually' present via the internet?)

The gist of their message to us has been that our spy services do more spying that our PM John Key has let on. (Numerous articles abound, here are two of the latest, Fairfax and Herald. You are allowed to be confused by the details!)

On the one hand this is sending some people, including a number of journalists into paroxysm and frenzy, driven by the moral crusade of trying to prove that John Key has broken the rubber band of truth stretching into an actual, proveable lie.

On the other hand some people (including myself) are 'So?' So what? I am So over this. So, what about real issues in Kiwis' lives like child poverty, access to affordable housing, better paid jobs? Of these the media appears disinterested.

Fuelled by Monday night's Moment of Truth event at which the trinity appeared, our media are acting as though preserving the secrecy of our spy services is a self-serving quest of the National Party, treating good men such as Ian Fletcher (head of GCSB) as some kind of villain out of an Orwellian terror nightmare and generally shouting SHOCK HORROR when their role in the service of the country they do not seem to love should be supporting the importance of NZ playing its part in the global defence of democracy and fair trade. (An honourable exception is Fran O'Sullivan). If only one journalist let along one opposition politician would utter these words, "United we stand, divided we fall, I favour a bi-partisan approach to intelligence gathering. Now let's get back to child poverty."

So there is a kind of madness going on, though there is a good chance that common sense will prevail and our votes when counted on Saturday night will support the status quo. Yes, that means supporting the sensibleness of our spy agencies keeping NZ safe, even if it means my unpublished thoughts (not many exist!) and your internet shopping raids might be viewed by GSCB clerks with nothing better to do. (Yeah, right ... they are, of course, looking for you to use other words on the internet than 'Amazon' or 'BNZ'. Words such as X-Keyscore ...).

There is a deeply unChristian angle to the presupposition beneath the trinity's crusade against their own countries involvement in the so-called Five Eyes network. That presupposition was clearly articulated by Glenn Greenwald on a Radio Live interview with Duncan Garner (yesterday afternoon, here). In that interview - which helped pass the time of day between Christchurch and Timaru - Greenwald asserted the absolute human right to privacy, to being able to do and say things behind locked doors and passwords which no one else could access.

There, I realised, is the intrinsic presence of sin and darkness within their crusade which, ironically is justified in terms of shedding light on aspects of government. By contrast, a Christian approach to living life is that we are to live in the light, hiding nothing, doing nothing under the cloak of darkness (e.g. 1 John 1:5-7). A Christian has nothing to fear from any eavesdropping on conversations or reading of emails.

Greenwald's argument is quite scary. By asserting this absolute human right to privacy he denies the possibility that the state might have a legitimate interest in private thoughts which involve the planning of evil acts of terror. Taken to its logical conclusion, Greenwald's argument would mean that we wait for terrorist actions to happen to us, rather than seeking to prevent them occurring.

If we have the means to prevent terrorism then it is unloving towards our neighbours, unloving of others to permit those actions to happen for fear of infringing on 'privacy.'

That we have few commentators willing and able to think clearly, beyond the media feeding frenzy, is a sign of the possibility that we are lacking philosophers to serve the common good of our society. Instead we have circus managers and an unending supply of clowns.

Of the latter, even our government has supplied a few. I am completely unimpressed that our government permitted the organiser of the Moment of Truth event, Kim Dotcon, into our country.

I am not particularly impressed with John Kay's handling of the intelligence matters. He has revealed too much and he has failed to offer an appropriate apologia for the importance of a cutting-edge community of intelligence agencies.

He will likely still be our PM after Saturday because part of the unfolding political tragedy of 2014 is that not one other party leader is capable of holding a candle to his abilities, exposed as they are to their many shortcomings. Seddon, Fraser, Holyoake, Kirk, Rowling, Lange, Bolger, Clark. They will either be rolling in their graves or rolling their eyes this week.


PS Shakespeare got it right when he said that those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Kiwis, if we don't get over this madness, we will destroy ourselves. If we want to solve child poverty we need an economy which performs well. As Fran O'Sullivan points out the GCSB is at the heart of government moves to assist our great corporations in remaining at the top of their commercial game.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chloe's pink fluffy slippers are very fluffy (1 of 3)

Obviously when an experience of worship invokes amusing thoughts about Chloe's pink slippers we need to explore how fluffy those slippers might be, if not whether the precise hue of pink they might be coated with matters ...

The fluff exploration starts with the imagination of Bishop John Bluck when he wrote a Taonga blog recently about the state of the liturgical nation (also known as ACANZP). A man of pure motives but writing mixed metaphors, the title is 'Tiger Country at a Church Near You' while the most memorable image is in the last lines of this citation:

"In 25 short years, we’ve shifted from being a church that prescribes forms of worship to one that lets a hundred flowers bloom and a few weeds as well.
This new-found freedom assumes a minimum level of literary and poetic skill, theological literacy and aesthetic judgement.
The latter quality is especially tricky. Without it, you end up offending, distracting and worst of all boring a congregation silly. Liturgy that trivialises and indulges ends up giving worth to ourselves rather than God. Worship ends up as therapy.
In recent months I’ve been invited in liturgies to think of God as creeping around like an undercover cop, acting like a blatant burglar, hiding in the compost under pregnant forests, cavorting happily with whales.
I’ve been encouraged to confess grave global crimes and silly misdemeanours, driven by motives that I’d never thought of. And I’ve been offered communion with words I’m more accustomed to hearing in pop song lyrics.
No doubt all this is good for broadening my tastes and testing my tolerance, but I still come away feeling I’ve been asked to wear Chloe’s pink fluffy slippers rather than don anything resembling the armour of faith. "

Bosco Peters comments on the post with yet another metaphor in his title, New Container for The Genie. I urge you to read that post for important issues issuing from or related to +Bluck's interesting reflections and observations.

Here I want to take another tack, trying to get inside the mood and mode our church has been in since 1989 (the year of publication of A New Zealand Prayer Book) which happens to be quite near the beginning of my journey as liturgical leader in ordained mode (1987 onwards), a journey which has included nearly 14 years of being a trainer of ministers (a role in this context not praised by Bosco!).

My role in fluffing Chloe's slippers

Let me start with a confession, noting a point Bosco makes re the 1998 General Synod: I was part of the voting majority at that Synod in favour of the decisive change to the rubric at the top of p. 511 of NZPB.

Why did I vote that way then? Would I still vote this way now? Where do I think we need to go as a liturgical church into the middle of the 21st century? I am going to need a few posts to unpack answers to those questions!

Why did I vote that way then?

In 1998 I was the Vicar of Blenheim South. When I began there in September 1995 I inherited a recently changed morning worship pattern which had transformed 8 am and 10 am prayer book services to a 9 am NZPB service (largely attended by people aged 60+ years) and a 10.30 am informal service (mostly attended by families with young children).

Our 10.30 am service used no prayer books. We had an OHP on which we placed transparencies for songs and prayers. We followed an 'identifiable' Anglican pattern re prayers (confession, absolution, the Lord's Prayer, eucharist) but the confession was drawn from a medley of prayers in a file box, only a few of which were copied from NZPB, and the eucharistic prayer I redacted downwards (though not by much!) in order to fit on an A5 sheet of paper, distributed to each person with weekly newsheets as they arrived.

For a creed we would sometimes use the Apostles or Nicene creeds but mostly we sung a creedal statement as per the good office of a songster such as Graham Kendrick. Intercessions were largely led on an informal basis.

In short, prior to 1998 General Synods, we were acting strictly illegally, though with the support of our bishop as we and most other Nelson parishes sought to find a service medium which fitted with the changing culture of our time. To vote in 1998 for the legality of what we were doing was as easy as turkeys voting against an early Christmas!

I was not voting, of course, just so I could escape arrest by the church police!

My concern then, shared across the Diocese of Nelson and through many other parishes in our church, was that we who were proudly Anglican, appreciative of our liturgical heritage and committed to the Anglican church having a future, could explore ways of being missionally relevant and pastorally supportive of worshippers who found holding a prayer book and saying the same thing week after week uncongenial.

Some of those worshippers felt that way because they came to our parishes from other Christian traditions. But some were like me, lifelong Anglicans. Guess what? During those lifetimes, things were changing about how we felt Anglican worship should be conducted.

The 1990s were a decade in which we realised we did not need books. OHPs were in every church and even beginning to be phased out in favour of Powerpoint/projector combos. The irony of publishing NZPB in 1989 was that we could deem that to be the Year of the Begining of the End of Books Made of Paper!

Our lifetimes to the 1990s had included the charismatic renewal of the 1970s and 80s. Through that renewal we realised that the Holy Spirit was as much present among Anglicans when space was given for spontaneous, unplanned, unstructured moments as when space was confined to ordered, planned, structured moments, charted by the sequence of prayers written on the pages of services composed years, if not centuries beforehand!

Our lifetimes to the 1990s also included new ecumenical appreciation of the liturgical treasures to be found in the liturgical offerings of other churches.

My vote in 1998, then, was a vote for the liturgical rules of our church to provide for and support the flexibility and informality I and my congregation needed as we charted a way forward for our worshipping community in an environment which (in my view) was already different to that which existed in 1989 and certainly was very different to the 1960s and 1970s when I, as a child then teenager, worshipped in services geared for family attendance.

Would I still vote the same way today? Where do I think we need to go as a liturgical church into the middle of the 21st century?

I will attempt to answer the first of those questions in my next post in this series.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Politics of Jesus - Monday 15 September 2014

UPDATE: Underwhelmed by tonight's Moment of Truth event, sponsored by Dotcon, I see no need to change anything written below!

Here we go ... a few days till the election closes at 7 pm on 20 September (yes, voting is already open).

Today is the day when Kim Dotcon wheels the real Glenn Greenwald out to an audience, with a hologramic Julian Assange in attendance to reveal (likely) evidence that our 'five eyes' GCSB communications' agency has conducted 'mass surveillance' of NZ citizens.

Alongside thinking about how many crooks will be in attendance at this meeting tomorrow night, you might like to read our John Key's diplomatic and nuanced description of Greenwald's role at Dotcon's side here.

Frankly, I see Dotcon, Assange, Greenwald triumverate as an unholy and dangerous alliance. Their view of 'freedom' seems to involve reckless disregard for the real danger to freedom of permitting terrorism to reign unchecked without appropriate surveillance of electronic communications. Their view of properly elected officials such as prime ministers, to be treated as targets to be taken down in the name of their distorted version of the future of the world, shows callous disregard for the importance of their role at the helm of state security.

As guardians of state security they need to balance keeping secrets with leading democratic nations. Obviously they are going from time to time to be forced - by the free press and free politicians - to make statements which either run the risk of blurring the truth or may even involve outright lies. As best I can understand, prime ministers from either side of the centre are pressed into this unenviable position.

Rather than hound them from office when some kind of proof (or 'proof', tonight?) is found of lying, should we not ask what curtailment of freedom we are willing to endure in the cause of continuing freedom.

We might also ask whether we like living in NZ with the GCSB or we would prefer to live in Russia with the KGB (cf the triumverate's mutual friend Edward Snowden's new abode) or in Saudi Arabia with their religious police or, pace Mr Assange, in Ecuador with its interesting approach to politics.

The good news is that it seems that most Kiwis are blessed with profound discernment and recognise that the GCSB is on the side of the NZ people rather than against them.

Otherwise, as we head into the final straight, the 'politics of Jesus' is in play for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. The central issues of the election remain the issues enumerated last Monday which lie at the core of each of the four parties I consider worth paying attention to.

(In no particular order of preference)

"National: personal responsibility

Labour: fairness

Greens: clean, sustainable environment

Maori: self-determination for Maori in accordance with Treaty of Waitangi."

Reasons for not voting for the parties associated with these issues abound (see discussion here last week about the Green's abortion policy). But if we vote then we will be making an assessment that the calculation of positives versus negatives has a positive sum.

May God help us as we choose ...


All politicians on the left who have climbed into John Key and National because of Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics are going to regret their hasty zeal. First, because the election noise about this book has all but drowned out the left's attempt to focus on the issues of unfairness in our society. (In this last week Dotcon's games will do the same). Secondly, because, despite protestations that the publication was solely driven by 'public interest', the one sidedness of the book's revelations means it is a piece of leftwing propaganda, biased towards non-revelation of the left's issues re public trust and accountability. Propaganda always had a grain of truth and describing the book thus is not to deny what is true in it. But its bias makes it fair game to those rightwingers keen to play Hager at his own game. He has left open the possibility of the sanctimoniousness, if not hypocrisy of politicians on the left being exposed at an opportune time. That exposure has already begun (as I read around the 'net). Thirdly, because if a National-led government wins this election it will win a fourth term (which I believe is John Key's ambition since by doing so he will equal Keith Holyoake's great achievement of the 1960s). That win will be predicated on National's ability to survive an onslaught of mud-slinging being a demonstration of the mind and mood of the populace. Besides which, they will learn some lessons from this election. Slater will not be on Key's speed dial list!


To finish, one of the best Tweets I have ever come across, tweeted after Saturday night's amazing AB win over the Springboks: if you need to know who 'Richie' is, then you may be an overseas reader!

What has that got to do with politics? Well, if Richie was running for Prime Minister we wouldn't be having half the shenanigans we are having. Dirty Politics would have a whole new meaning ... more mud on your shorts than mud on your blogs :)

Sacred, spiritual and sermonic links - Monday 15 September 2014

1. The bells of Merton College, Oxford - BBC Radio 4

2. Choral Evensong from Hereford Cathedral - 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. Archived choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge

6. Let the Children Come - Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrew's Singapore Audio [Matthew 19 and Proverbs 2]

7. I Need More Proof - Tom Custance - St Helen's Audio [1 Corinthians 15:1-22]

8. The Book of Micah - Bishop Rennis Ponniah's 3 part Bible exposition - St Andrew's Singapore Audio

Please pray for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq; for the persecuted church and in particular in the Middle East, Nigeria, Egypt and Pakistan; 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 Region:
The Trauma is Indescribable TGC interview
more Media Reports from FRRME

10. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers against Ebola - Lent and Beyond
Nigeria: Villagers told: convert or die - Release Intl
Egypt: Egyptian fire crew in no hurry to put out church fire – WWM
Pakistan and Iran: 55 Christians accused of ‘blasphemy’ after graveyard row - Release Intl
South Carolina: Bishop Lawrence Calls for Fasting and Praying for the Persecuted Church September 14-15

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

12. Food for thought
National day of prayer for Scottish referendum - Christian Today
It’s because we don’t believe in God - Sam Norton
Imam in Residence program at Calgary’s St. Martin’s Anglican Church - Calgary Herald
Why we must fight ISIS with more than missiles - Thomas Farr - First Things
The hardest prayer: why it's time to #prayforISIS - Christian Today

13. Not Enough Evidence?- St Helen's Vimeo [see #7 above for more]

14. Land of Hope and Glory - BBC Proms 2014

15. Earth images from Alexander Gerst – ESA

Saturday, September 13, 2014

NT scholar's secret life as Vatican propagandist?

In the spirit of NZ's current Dirty Politics saga, that is, revelation of secrets such as who is secretly working for otherwise undeclared "whom", ADU can exclusively reveal that Richard Bauckham may be secretly working on behalf of the Vatican.

The evidence is here in an excellent book review of Jesus and the Eye-Witnesses:

"the portrait he paints of the Church of the first generation looks suspiciously like what Catholics say it should/did: with an apostolic college (the Twelve) having authority over the Traditions and over the people, and this apostolic college being headed by a Jesus-appointed chief apostle, Peter."

Now various pundits will have a field day with this evidence since, in the spirit of Prof. Bauckham's own meticulous scholarship, they will necessarily be considering the possibilities that:

- inadvertently the Prof has paralleled precisely the case the Vatican would itself like to make for the primacy of Peter;
- since all Protestants are just lost children of Mother Church (and Anglicans are confused, lost children), the Prof unknown to himself was channelling his inner catholic longing to return home as he wrote this book;
- with a slight concession being made to Calvin, who spotted that just as truth is predestined to win over falsehood so genuine seekers after truth are predestined to theological conclusions which conform to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Prof has simply arrived at the central truth of church history by a circuitous route which God shepherded him along.

However this pundit thinks that maybe the Prof cannot and should not be corralled in the way the reviewer does in the service of Petrine propaganda. The citation above begs the question whether (a) the 'apostolic college' consisted of just the Twelve (James the brother of Jesus was a pillar of the Jerusalem church); (b) Peter was appointed 'chief apostle' by Jesus (cf. the striking role brother James plays in the early church, the lack of clarity through (say) 1 Corinthians that Peter was chief among the apostles; (c) indeed, whether any one person was 'head' of the apostolic college; (d) what we are to make of the fallibility of Peter as one of the chief apostles?

It is striking, is it not, that Paul (if we are consistently anachronistic here) the leading Protestant of his day, should have cause to challenge Peter!