Thursday, October 30, 2014

Meeting ++Peter Jensen (UPDATED with link to ET of Roman Synod's final statement)

LINK TO ROMAN SYNOD The English translation of the recent Roman Synod's final document is now here.

UPDATE TO BELOW A lovely day at Pudding Hill yesterday. James de Costabadie gave a brilliant Bible Study on Romans 6 and ++Peter Jensen gave a superb session on Conversion (I say 'session' because it was a mixture of talk, engaging us in discussion and response, and generally working through what 'conversion' means biblically and theologically. Before being archbishop Peter was an educator!)

ORIGINAL I am off today to join the annual Latimer Fellowship retreat at Pudding Hill,for which the guest contributor is Archbishop Peter Jensen. It will be good to talk with ++Peter again - I very much enjoyed meeting him in Sydney a few, well, now, eight years ago. Tempus fugit!

Before extending yesterday's post with a second part, here are a few items to potentially stimulate the cells of your grey matter dedicated to things Anglican:

Cranmer's Curate has posted a fine sermon on the Apotle's Creed and Christian identity.

Notwithstanding a diagnosis of Anglican Communion ills re lack of unity, the Living Church reports to us on some progress in "intra Anglican" dialogue here.

Bosco Peters has a lovely post at Liturgy on the waka huia at St Michael's and All Angels here in Christchurch (for overseas readers, our most famous, most uniformly dedicated through the decades Anglo-Catholic church in Kiwiland). Readers here know that I am not one to promote the Blessed Sacrament (e.g. see below) and even less so its adoration, but in the freedom of Christ other Christians think differently and that is fine. His post includes details about the history of tabernacling at St Michael's that I was not aware of ... oh to be a bishop in the days when bishops had nigh on autocratic powers ... you will have to read the post to see what I mean :)

Yesterday I was privileged to be an invited preacher at the weekly 'College eucharist' at St John's College in Auckland as well as an 'Anglican Voice' at an afternoon session with the students and staff. It was good to be at the College, not least catching up - quite briefly, unfortunately, with our diocesan students there.

I preached on Ephesians 6:1-9 and Luke 13:22-30. I pointed out that the former passage is not a good one to preach on to Anglicans as its radical egalitarianism strikes at the heart of love of hierarchy in our church. Focusing on Luke I noted the ways in which Luke in that passage is both clever and too clever by half, or maybe even muddled, yet faithful to Jesus own words. Maybe a post for the future.

In the afternoon session I chided ourselves for having small ecumenical ambitions. That too might be a post for the future.

While en route to and fro Auckland I had some marking to do and my reading alerted me to a passage in Raymond Brown's commentary on John's Gospel - speaking of the Blessed Sacrament - which warmed my Cranmerian heart:

"[John 6] Verses 53-56 promise the gift of life to the man who feeds on Jesus' flesh and drinks his blood, but this eucharistic promise follows the main body of the Bread of Life Discourse in 35-50 which insisted on the necessity of belief in Jesus. The juxtaposition of the two forms of the discourse teaches that the gift of life comes through a believing reception of the sacrament (cf. 54 and 47)." (from Brown, John I-XII, 292. Italics are Brown's).

I do understand that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament comes from faith in Jesus and centres faith on Jesus!

Whatever form our worship takes, we will want to be in touch with the lectionary if we want to keep our Anglican membership cards ... in the 21st century that simply has to mean a touch of electricity. Ian Paul leads us to Oremus and the e-age of lectionaries ...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Will Anglican conservatives be left behind? Are Roman conservatives the new Pharisees? (1)

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the recent synod in Rome - see various preceding posts - is that Pope Francis permitted an openness to the synod which lifted the lid on the diversity of considerations being canvassed as Rome engages with sex, marriage and family in the 21st century.

What we have seen, including statements about votes for each section of the final document, is a church which acts like other churches synodically (to a degree, I acknowledge it was bishops voting, not other clergy let alone laity). In the statement of the voting, and in some reported comments about the course of debate, we see a church as prone to division into 'conservative' and 'liberal' camps as many other churches.

After the synod, who would swim the Tiber for the sake of joining a church which had every issue on human sexuality sewn up, neatly packaged and guaranteed to provide stable, 'conservative' answers for the remainder of this century?

Of course, if one yearns for a very slow gradual development of doctrine and its application to real life, then Rome is your church. It would be a mistake to read too much into the synod's openness to change last week. In one sense at least, in respect of doctrine, of who may formally be welcomed at the eucharist, nothing changed. But was there anything in the synod to discourage bishops and priests who tacitly welcome the remarried or those in an openly same sex partnership to communion?

Within our own Kiwi ranks, Archbishop John Dew has nailed his liberal (i.e. open-to-change) colours to the mast here.

On Roman conservatism I have been alerted to an extraordinary pairing of columns, one from Ross Douthat representing tough, no nonsense conservatism and a reply by Andrew Sullivan representing a robust, liberal appreciation for Francis and his perceived aims.

Douthat has this extraordinary paragraph, though ordinary enough for quite a few conservatives as it expresses sentiments I have been seeing on the internet these past few weeks:

"But it [i.e. a reversal of approach by the church] would leave many of the church’s bishops and theologians in an untenable position, and it would sow confusion among the church’s orthodox adherents — encouraging doubt and defections, apocalypticism and paranoia (remember there is another pope still living!) and eventually even a real schism.

Those adherents are, yes, a minority — sometimes a small minority — among self-identified Catholics in the West. But they are the people who have done the most to keep the church vital in an age of institutional decline: who have given their energy and time and money in an era when the church is stained by scandal, who have struggled to raise families and live up to demanding teachings, who have joined the priesthood and religious life in an age when those vocations are not honored as they once were. They have kept the faith amid moral betrayals by their leaders; they do not deserve a theological betrayal."

This kind of claim, of superior orthodoxy through morally worthy behaviour in holding the church together in the face of countervailing tendencies towards diminished orthodoxy or disintegration of the church, is palpable nonsense. If worthiness favoured the worthy (in their own eyes) Jesus would never have taken the Pharisees on! The challenge to be merciful - thanks be to God for Francis making this challenge - is not to be dismissed by the vague possibility that to show mercy will undermine those who need no mercy because they are righteous.

Peter Steinfels takes Douthat on in Commonweal. One part of his critique is the simple observation that all is not simple when it comes to human relationships which fail to live to the ideal. The history of the church shows that, actually, it has not held, universally, to one and only one line:

"Is it possible that the problem posed by the dynastic marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, a Spanish princess and the aunt of the Emperor Charles V, whose imperial forces had just sacked Rome and imprisoned the pope, is not altogether determinative of contemporary cases of failed marriages and lasting remarriages?

Might he recognize that the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, whose sacraments and clergy Rome accepts as valid, is no less aware of Jesus’ words about adultery but has reached different conclusions regarding remarriage and admission to communion? Is he aware of the early church’s complicated history surrounding the question of admission and readmission to communion?
Questions about divorce, remarriage, and reception of communion are not easily resolved, least of all by me. But Douthat’s assertions that the matter is simply “not debatable” is unfounded. Likewise his claim that anything besides categorically judging a second marriage adulterous would necessarily reverse rather than develop church teaching. "

If a question arises from the Douthat (and others') approach to the moral rights of conservatives to impose their will on the whole church as to a new Pharisaism arising, there is another question to ponder, closer to our Anglican home. As Rome engages with reality, are Anglican conservatives in danger of being left behind in a changing churchscape?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Can it be true? Is this for real?

Badiou is coming to Auckland.

The name Alan Badiou may not mean much to readers here, but if it is known then it may mean a lot because he is a French atheist, leading philosopher in the one country likely to think philosopher = rock star who once wrote a seminal New Testament book.

That book is St Paul: The Foundation of Universalism (2003). In it Badiou expounds the thesis that Paul is the first philosopher to speak universal truth for the world (as opposed to his tribe or culture or nation). Badiou's interest lies in this starting point for later universalist philosophers including Marx.

Our Christian and Pauline interest in Badiou might be that a non-believer recognises the significance of Paul as the apostle to both Jews and Gentiles, that is, to everyone, with a message for all. Part of Badiou's point is that the universal 'all' of Paul is not only Jews and Gentiles, but all Jews and Gentiles: women as well as men, slaves as well as masters.

Alan Badiou is giving a public lecture at the University of Auckland, 6 pm, Tuesday 25 November 2014. The event is announced here on Facebook. I am going!

His lecture is being arranged by "the Auckland Critical Theory Collective, the School of Social Sciences and the Europe Institute" but notice has been circulated by Robert Myles for the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Biblical Studies.

The topic intrigues, and may have little to do with the New Testament given the provenance of the organisers:

"À la recherche du réel perdu / In search of the lost Real"

Of course the witty ones on the Facebook page, in the light of the topic are raising the question whether this is really going to happen :)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spiritual and Sacred Links - Monday 27th October 2014

(Supplied by a UK colleague)

I hope some of this will be of assistance. Prayers for you this coming week.

1. Let Jesus heal the way we see - Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrews Singapore Audio [Luke 10:25-37]

2. The Lord of eternity - Vaughan Roberts - St Ebbes Audio [Revelation 1:1-8]

3. Wrestling with the problem of Prejudice - Canon Kendall Harmon - Christ St Paul's Audio [James 2]

4. Religious Freedom for Middle East Christians - Mark Movsesian - Lanier Theological Library Vimeo

Commentary for Sunday 26th October
5. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

6. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

7. The bells of St. Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield in London - BBC Radio 4

8. Sunday Worship from Merton College, Oxford with Professor Alister McGrath on Tolkein - BBC Radio 4

9. Choral Evensong from Chelmsford Cathedral - BBC Radio 3

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

11. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

12. Choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

Please pray for the Ebola Crisis and for those working for a cure; for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq; for the persecuted church and in particular in Nigeria, Tanzania, Iran, Pakistan and in particular for Asia Bibi for whom a petition has passed 200,000 signatures, for the Central African Republic; for peace in Ukraine, Egypt, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

13. Iraq Region:
Bishop: 90% of Orthodox Christians in Iraq diplaced - Al Monitor
Surviving an ISIS Massacre - NYT Vimeo [warning graphic violence shown]
more Media Reports from FRRME

14. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Ebola death toll tops 4,900 out of more than 10,000 cases: WHO - Christian Today
Statement – WHO
Nigeria: 2 pastors killed in attack by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria - Christian Today
Tanzania: Tanzanian teacher murdered in church, pastor and wife on Zanzibar attacked by extremists – WWM
Iran: Three Christians face six year sentences in remote prisons – CSW
Pakistan: Petition to overturn Asia Bibi's death penalty surpasses 200,000 signatures - Christian Today
CAR: Priest kidnapped, dozens killed amidst renewed violence in C. African Rep – WWM
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

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

16. Food for thought
Conflict or Mutual Enrichment? Why Science and Theology Need to Talk to Each Other - Alister McGrath – ABC
Understand concept of ‘infidel’ to understand risks of Islamic radicalization - Jacob Zenn – WWM
How to save a diocese - Ian Paul
How to prevent the extinction of the Church of England - Gillan Scott
7 Reasons Some Churches Experience Revitalization - Thom Rainer

17. Why Baptism?

18. Teaching English in South East Asia - TSM Video

19. Kyrie - Duruflé - Somerville Choir

God bless you

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How to save your diocese and perhaps all of your church?

Thoughtful post on renewing and reviving the church here, by Ian Paul.

Obviously if you are not a C of E member then you need to make appropriate translation to your own situation.

Then there are the comments, matching Ian for thoughtfulness and repaying our attention.

There is a comment about Wesleyan revival.

I think it is saying there is nothing in our day intrinsically preventing such revival.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shootout between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees?

Whether we are embroiled as Anglicans in debates 'conservative' v 'liberal' or Roman bishops v the Pope at their recent synod, we live out, like Groundhog Day, again and again, the theological shootout between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees. Only, sometimes we think we are Jesus when we are scribal, and sometimes the Pharisees understand Jesus better ...

As the dust settles on what is a kind of interim position reprised from a previously provisional mid-conference report anticipating a more final conclusion following next year's significant conciliar gathering in Rome, there are some things Anglicans might reflect on about the upheaval in Rome.

Some - reading across the internet - have described the synod, especially at its mid-point as an 'earthquake' and others as 'not, in the end, an earthquake.'

I think there has been an earthquake and its nuts to suggest otherwise.

The earthquake is this: a remarkable openness has been displayed which has revealed what many Christians 'on the ground' know about Roman Catholicism but which you would not know from reading official pronouncements from Rome.

That knowledge is that ordinary churchgoers and many priests are very open to the things that Rome is officially closed to: ordination of married men as priests, ordination of women as priests, communion for the divorced and remarried.

It might be going too far to say there is widespread support for same sex marriage but the notion that homosexuality is about intrinsically disordered acts does not sit well in today's world. Oh, and we could also mention the widespread ignoring by married couples of constraint on use of artificial means of contraception.

Now, following the synod, we know that many bishops openly acknowledge these things. We see a pope (elected by the cardinals, normally themselves drawn from the ranks of bishops) who wants these things openly discussed. Notably, last week, Pope Francis commanded that the clauses in the final statement which did not secure a two-thirds majority should nevertheless be published. (The final document, at this stage only in Italian, with voting, is here.) The voting shows that Rome itself, expressed through its bishops, is quite contemporary Anglican: liberals, conservatives and finding the middle way between them!

One of the things I am noticing in my reading is a kind of shootout between conservatives (wanting the letter of Roman Magisterial doctrine to be observed, maintained and promulgated) and liberals (open to finding ways, nevertheless, to welcome more fully into the life of the church those currently excluded from (e.g.) full participation in the Mass.

A significant signal of these kinds of differences lies in the change between the mid-term document and the final document re gay Christians, the former speaking of 'welcoming homosexual persons' the latter omitting that and talking about offering 'pastoral care.'

But where else do we see this kind of subtle debate going on between the letter and the spirit of the law? In the gospels, of course. The gospels intrigue me on the matter of the scribes and the Pharisees because it seems to me that, whatever the historical accuracy of the portrayal of the scribes and the Pharisees, the gospels capture an enduring issue in religion in which scriptures figure, including our own Christian faith. What do the writings say? Does what is said continue to apply? Who may authoritatively interpret what is said and adjudicate its application? Here is a group, seeking to be faithful to those writings, who tend to go with a close if not literal following of the words. There is a group, seeking to be faithful to those writings, who tend to go with an open, liberal understanding of the words, perhaps appealing to a principle which lies within the words in question, or within the scriptures as a whole.

Our challenge as Christians, whether oriented towards Rome, Canterbury, Geneva or Constantinople, is to avoid being scribes and Pharisees and to side with Jesus. Yet that is easier said than done. After all, on some scriptural matters Jesus was more close, literal in his reading than the scribes and Pharisees (notably on marriage and divorce). On other matters Jesus exposed the folly of such reading, perhaps because of the hypocrisy involved, or maybe because adherence to one set of words involved denial of another set ... see this Sunday's Matthean lectionary reading!

More in the next post ...


In working on the above post I noticed this fascinating item in which the ESV (English Standard Version, sometimes called 'Evangelical Standard Version') has nearly replaced the Jerusalem Bible as the Roman English 'lectionary' translation. The reasons given for negotiations not reaching a point where change will happen are technical etc but I am amazed that it got considered at all: the ESV is not a wonderful version for public reading of Scripture in worship! Even evangelicals (in my experience) recognise that ...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Monday 20 October 2014

From the Roman Synod:

The Pope's final address.

The Bishops' final address.

The final document itself, in Italian, with voting numbers at foot.

Archbishop Nichols comment.

The Tablet's report.

Damian Thompson's take.

Cranmerian wisdom.

The Pope's "liberalism" is not keeping up with progressive change in Western Catholicism.

A post for those who think the Pope is being particularly cunning or especially naive.

An optimistic view that it's just a bit of a setback for Francis.

I hope to blog about the significance of the Synod later this week.

(The following comes from a UK colleague) 

I hope some of this will be of assistance and use. #2 Truro Cathedral evensong podcast from 14th October; #8 J John on what it means to be a Christian; #9 Evangelist and writer of the monumental King's English reflections interviewed by Richard Bewes in the Summer; #10 and #11 Commentary on today's readings from Stephen Trott and Peter Carrell; #13 the reality of Ebola in Liberian in a NTY video; and Asia Bibi's death sentence in Pakistan upheld by judges who know they are under promise of death if they free her; #16 remembering Henry Martyn commemorated today; #17 interesting and helpful reading from The Screwtape Letters; #18 Message to ISIS from Christians refugees.

Prayers for you this coming week.

1. The bells of St Mary, Bishopstoke in Hampshire - BBC Radio 4

2. Choral Evensong from Truro Cathedral

3. Choral Evensong from Royal Holloway - 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 Worship from Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham - BBC Radio 4

6. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

7. Choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

8. What it means to be a Christian - J John - HTB Video [John 3:16]

9. Glen Scrivener interviewed by Richard Bewes – Video
The King's English

Commentary for Sunday 12th October
10. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

11. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

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, Pakistan and in particular for Asia Bibi whose death sentence has been upheld, Laos and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with rising brutality there; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

12. Iraq Region:
Iraqi Christian refugees lament lives destroyed by IS - BBC News
All Knayeh hostages free – WWM
Iran appears to fight Islamic State, but are their ultimate goals too similar for comfort? – WWM
more Media Reports from FRRME

13. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Fighting the Ebola Outbreak, Street by Street - New York Times Vimeo
The decades-old treatment that may save a young Dallas nurse infected with Ebola - Washington Post
Ebola: Prayers from Lent and Beyond
Nigeria: Claim of truce raises hope that kidnapped Nigerian girls will be released – WWM
How Boko Haram's Murders and Kidnappings Are Changing Nigeria's Churches – CT
Pakistan: Pakistan court upholds death penalty for Asia Bibi despite serious legal loophole in trial – WWM
Laos: Six Christians released, pastor still detained following arrest at religious meeting – CSW
DR Congo: Second massacre in days leaves 20 dead in east DR Congo
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

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

15. Food for thought
Be yourself in prayer - Stephen Miller
When a Pastor Resigns Abruptly - John Ortberg – CT
We Have Never Been Secular: Rethinking Religion and Secularity in Britain Today - John Millbank – ABC
All for a Good Cause? Islamic State and the Delusions of 'Salvational Cause Amorality' - Khaled Abou El Fadl – ABC
Recording Fauré's Requiem in 90 seconds - King's College Choir

16. Henry Martyn: Missionary Scholar for our Age? - Bishop Graham Kings from 2012
Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide - formerly the Henry Martyn Centre

17. The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis Doodle

18. Noon Song - Iraqi Christian Refugees - Sat 7

19. My Lighthouse - Rend Collective

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Facing the reality that life is complex (Updated)


According to this article the first moves to walk back Monday's document are well underway with the issuing of a new, revised English translation of the original Italian document on Thursday. Go there and follow the links. #vaticanturmoil


Since posting this yesterday morning I have been reflecting on the amazing character of the interim report of the Roman synod (first link below).

We should not get too excited about the possibility that the document bears resemblance to the final synodical outcomes (it might, it might not) but we - Anglicans - can get excited by what the document reveals about the similarities and commonalities that actually, really, definitely exist between us as churches.

That is, after decades of presenting ourselves (in global terms) as a Communion of churches open to (apparently) unRoman developments, with ensuing and sometimes unseemly fights between conservatives and liberals and, truth be told, between Africans and European-Americans, all looking as though we are wishy-washy and/or hopelessly divided to an unhelpful ecumenical degree, we now find the synod document (along with its immediate reactions - see below) reveals that across the global Roman church there is a range of thinking going on at the episcopal level re the same litmus test issues concerning sexuality, marriage and family which is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, quite 'Anglican' in its width. (The obvious exception is the ordination of women, an issue not addressed by this particular synod).

Thus Damian Thompson (from a conservative-tending-in-my-view-towards-ultra-conservative perspective) has a go at Cardinal Kasper. Read here to find that Kasper is sorta, kinda an Anglican disguised in cardinal's robes, even to the point, recalling a famous if unfortunate statement by +Spong at Lambeth 1998, of casting aspersions on the capabilities of his African colleagues.

Now some Anglicans will be very excited by the liberal cast of mind of some Roman bishops, others very relieved by the sterner adherence to conservative values of the likes of Pell and Burke, but my particular excitement here is the simple sign that when it comes to facing the complex reality of human relationships, Romans and Anglicans are agreed that the reality is complex and the response leads to a range of points of view.

The future union of the two Communions will not be helped by the final document of the synod which, no doubt, will be more conservative than liberal (to summarise its general character) and thus will (incidentally) map out differences between official Roman and Anglican approaches to these matters. But what might help the future union is the revelation that beyond official documents, Roman bishops' thoughts - on at least some issues - have many commonalities with what Anglicans are thinking.

Who knows where thinking out loud might be taken by the Holy Spirit?


The fangs are being bared, the knives are out, and the fight is heating up. Yes, folks that is the synod in Rome this week as the debate continues. We have insight into what is going on because a 'mid synod' statement has been published and some of the bishops have been commenting adversely against it. Cardinal Pell, unsurprisingly, has a few words of damnation. And that is just one conservative bishop speaking out.

I urge you, dear reader, to read the whole statement, as I have just done. It is a remarkable document because it represents Rome facing the reality that life is complex. It is a document that with a few nips and tucks many Christian churches could have written, though perhaps a year or a decade or two earlier.

Now I am Mr RealPolitik and I am sure that the final document will be smarter, close to current doctrine, and, well, less realistic about complexity. But let's warm to the document we have before us.

Nevertheless even I have spotted a few things which raise questions - I raise one question about each but it is not rocket science to see that other questions follow!

Is socialism the key to successful marriage and family life?

"the excessive room given to market logic, that prevents an authentic family life" - see 33.

Is spiritual communion the same as material communion?

"if spiritual communion is possible, why not allow them to partake in the sacrament?" - see 48.

What would happen if pastoral decisions were made on a case by case basis?

"the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances." - see 47.

How can homosexuality be a serious disorder if the church is thinking this?

"Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners." - see 52.

Is the Via Media being endorsed?

"It is not wise to think of unique solutions or those inspired by a logic of “all or nothing”." - see 40.

A commenter alerts us to the presence of Anglican blogging bishop, Paul Butler of Durham, who is present at the synod as an observer.


On the precariousness of 'annulment' (does it nullify an earlier marriage or is it just a hoop to pop through on the way to the Lord's table?) read this moving testimony, published in the Tablet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Blindspot One?

Picking up a post previously re the relationship between ACNA and the Anglican Communion, note this formal statement by seven primates of the Anglican Communion, including the Chair of Global South and the Chair of GAFCON:

"We, the undersigned primates, were honored to participate in the joyful investiture of the Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach as Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, and to receive him as a fellow Primate of the Anglican Communion." (my bold)

++Justin has better not have any blindspots over the relationship between ACNA and the Communion as he consults the primates of the Communion.

Blindspot Two?

The latest edition of the Australian Church Record has a series of articles on faith. Michael Bird rightly takes one article, "Has Protestantism Gone Catholic?", to task at Euangelion. What do you think?

Just the other day I listened to a fine local evangelical Anglican preacher, tackling the gospel for the day, Matthew 22:1-14 (the parable of the wedding feast in which one included guest is then thrown out for wearing inappropriate clothing), who effectively made the point, nicely put by Bird,

"we are not justified by works, but neither are we justified without them (Calvin). Good works demonstrate the integrity of the faith we profess (Morris)."

On such a point, particularly when tied to Scripture itself, is it possible to distinguish a Catholic priest and an evangelical minister preaching on the importance of faithful Christians rightly demonstrating their faith through works? All evangelicals preaching from the starting point of justification and engaging with the full counsel of God in Scripture get to a point, faithfully expressed by my colleague, that behaviour matters in the sight of God. Quite why we do not then work back to adjust our doctrine of justification in the direction Bird and many other scholars, including the great Reformers, go, is, let's say, a mystery :)

My view is also that Protestants might be more respectful of Catholic theologians and Protestants they accuse of 'going Catholic' if we worked harder at holding on to Matthew's Gospel alongside Paul's Romans.

Blindspot Three?

To read some bits and pieces of the flotsam and jetson of internet opinion is to form an impression that Anglican = wishy-washy but Roman = firm, sound, clear. Fortunately to read this note re the course of the current synod in Rome is to see that the distinctions between 'Anglican' and 'Roman' that some would like to promote are not as strong as they would like!

Blindspot Four?

So, how is that inclusive, liberal, progressive paradigm working out for you? Are more or less people being included in your church? Here is the answer for one church which is a flag-bearer for the paradigm.


I notice, scrolling down the Australian Church Record pdf linked to above, that our own Dave Clancey, a vicar here in Christchurch, has written an article on Motion 30.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Monday 13 October 2014

(Supplied by a colleague in the UK)

1. The bells of St Mary le Ghyll, Barnoldswick in Lancashire - BBC Radio 4

2. Sunday Worship from Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin - BBC Radio 4

3. Choral Evensong from Winchester College - BBC Radio 3 [now available from last week]

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. The power of the Gospel - Charles Marnham - St Michael's Chester Square Audio [2 Corinthians 4:1-9 and 5:11-21]

8. Pergamum - Andrew Wingfield Digby - St Andrew's Oxford Audio [Revelation 2:12-17]

9. Lack-lustre or shining brightly? - Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrew's Singapore [Luke 24]

Sermon and Commentary for Sunday 12th October
10. The Wedding Feast - Rev Professor Christopher Seitz [Luke 22:1-14]

11. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

12. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

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.

13. Iraq Region:
Exclusive – Vicar of Baghdad: ISIS Cells Already in Baghdad - Clarion Project
Kidnapped Syrian priest, 4 women, freed - WWM
more Media Reports from FRRME

14. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Ukraine: Evangelicals call for aid and prayer as pro-Russian militants destroy cities - Christian Today
China: China facing 'worst persecution since the Cultural Revolution' says former underground church pastor - Christian Today
Hong Kong: Former bishop of Hong Kong: 'We must fight now before it's too late' - Christian Today
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

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

16. Food for thought
John Lennox - Do not be silent about your faith - Christian Today
Pagans and Christians - Ross Douthat - NYT
CofE Parishes: The Future - David Pocklington
How busy people make time to read - and you can too - Laura Vanderkam
Scientific research finds that life after death is possible - Christian Today

17. Archbishop of York Hails “Great Success” of Pilgrim Course as New Materials Released
The Pilgrim Course

18. Sitting at Jesus' Feet and Listening - St Helen's Vimeo

19. Build Your Kingdom Here - Rend Collective

Sunday, October 12, 2014

New Revelation About My Vocation

In a nutshell, the revelation is that I am working for the wrong church, and for peanuts.

The true church, which offers better wages is reported here.

(Hint: Its hierarchy is not meeting in Rome at the moment).

Friday, October 10, 2014

More Perfectly Fractured Union? What the future of global Anglicanism will not be! (UPDATED)

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that the recent installation of the new Archbishop of ACNA has been well supported by Anglican Primates, from GAFCON and Global South, thus when ++Justin says he will be guided by the Anglican primates about the future, likely he will be reckoning with a significant number of primates (at least 10/38?) urging that ACNA be included in the future of the Communion.

In England a book is making a few waves as the Archbishop of York is being called the Archbigot of York and Reform is going on strike, in part as a response to the diatribes of the author of the book.

Bishop Alan Wilson (of Buckingham) has written - with a nod to the US constitution! - More Perfect Union: Understanding Same sex Marriage (and Commented for Free at the Guardian). In this book (and column) he argues that the Bible is nonsensical on homosexuality and the CofE structurally if not dangerously homophobic. Two sane reviews (from conservatives) are by Andrew Goddard and Ian Paul. Through all this, following on from yesterday's post, we are blessed by seeing what the predominant future of global Anglicanism will not be.

On the specific future of the Anglican Communion, a degree of vagueness emanates from the ABC himself. What the future of the AC will be is vague right now but we can be sure about what neither the AC nor any 'new wine' global Anglican fellowship will be, thanks both to Bishop Alan and to Reform.

First, there will not be a future majority global Anglican fellowship which specialises in demonizing some of its constituent members. 'Homophobic' and 'bigot' will not be in the vocabulary. Nor will language which casts the Bible as peddling nonsense. Whatever else Peter Tatchell is trying to achieve with his 'Archbigot of York' line or Bishop Alan with his book, it is not a contribution to building or rebuilding global Anglican fellowship. Contributions of that kind require respectful conversation towards a true inclusion of hermeneutical diversity.

Secondly, a future majority global Anglican fellowship will not be attuned to one end of the Anglican spectrum, neither to the end which endorses same sex marriage as something the Bible endorses though mysteriously withheld from our eyes for millennia nor to the end which seeks to de-license if not expel members who have entered such marriages.

Reform is right to express what it believes and to highlight what it sees as current inadequacies in C of E attempts at conversation. It raises pertinent questions about the role of Bishop Alan Wilson at this time. (Why, indeed, does he wish to stay in an awful church he sees as 'structurally homophobic'?) But is Reform and its thinking on the complexities of human relationships charting the future of the C of E? Does Reform think the C of E, en masse, will settle on these matters according to the charts of Reform? Surely not!

Despite criticisms of  ++Justin's desire for 'good disagreement' over such matters, isn't he right about what the C of E will settle for? A 'good disagreement' generally fits what the C of E has done through the centuries as it has disputed various matters. Despite one gaping failure to engage in 'good disagreement' with Wesley and the Methodists, on many matters the C of E has found a way to hold together differences so sharp that they have amounted to disagreements. It is more likely by far that the C of E will  find its 'good disagreement' on homosexuality than agree wholeheartedly with either Bishop Alan or with Reform.

Working back to the future of global Anglicanism from the internal turmoil of the C of E, the strongest probability for the predominant formal global Anglican fellowship is that it will be one which enables 'good disagreement' across the Anglican world.

Whether the Anglican Communion is now able to do that remains to be seen (in my view). It is a fractured union and may not be able to be healed. The damage done (mostly) by bishops to the Communion - strident and scornful from both ends of the spectrum - may have mortally wounded a once great institution.

We in the West must not mistake the importance of 'good disagreement' being a hallmark of Anglicanism for 'the amount of good disagreement we tolerate is the amount a predominant global Anglican fellowship can tolerate.'

That is why I am not confident that the Anglican Communion as presently constituted will continue to be the dominant form of global fellowship. It might take (a) the West to get out of the driving seat of the movement and (b) greater limits on diversity than we are used to in our 'from Spong to Stott' broad church.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Three Popes of the Anglican Communion

Arguably the worst period in the history of the Roman Catholic church was the period of the Three Popes (1410-1417, closely followed by the period of the Two Popes, 1378-1410). When the point of a pope is to hold the unity of the universal church together (after 1054, at least the unity of the universal church in the West), to have two popes is unfortunate and to have three is a disaster. Whether divided in two or in three, a divided universal church has no claim to be universal!

But the Roman church came through this crisis, not least because it re-asserted its unity around a single pope by choosing to fall in behind one and only one pope from 1417. The way was paved for the development of doctrine both as a system (building on Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274) and as a way of life (following the notable example of Francis, 1182-1226) in a coherent, elegant catechetical edifice. Fast forward through the debacle of papal ambition for an edifice of a different kind - sparking the Reformation (ameliorated from a Roman perspective by the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation) - and you get to Louise Mensch's sympathetic endorsement of the edifice and its sharp edge re her own situation as a divorced and remarried woman (mentioned in my previous post).

Arguably, when I pronounced, possibly prematurely, the death of the Anglican Communion, a few posts ago, I should have talked instead about this being the worst period in the history of the Anglican Communion. We do not quite have Three Popes but we do have Three Anglican Fellowships, each (effectively) competing for the role of 'pope' as in a unifying force for global Anglicanism:

- the Anglican Communion itself (but we cannot get all 38 churches to meet together in the same place at the same time for the one eucharistic service);

- GAFCON (roughly, the most conservative Anglicans of the Communion, as well as ACNA); and

- Global South (roughly, Anglicans from across Communion provinces in Africa, Asia, and two Oceania provinces, with warm welcome to observers from Australasia and North America, including ACNA, and recently offering oversight to the no-longer-with-TEC Diocese of South Carolina).

What might happen when we come out of this worst period?

It is too early to tell. But it is not rocket science to suggest that what will come out is something which affirms the distinctiveness of Anglicanism as a way of being Christian which is not confused with other ways of being Christian. Part of what is going on at the present time is a sifting out of the Anglicans who were so Roman they now literally belong to Rome and ditto of those who were so Genevan that they now no longer belong to Canterbury.

Perhaps harder to see, but I think the signs are there via aging, greying congregations in the West, is the sifting out of liberal theology from Anglicanism. The folly, for instance, of liberal celebration of extreme diversity, has been exposed by the divisions which are fracturing the Communion. The future of global Anglicanism lies with the celebration of diversity-in-unity through theology which binds us together rather than drives us apart.

The combination of unifying theology and distinctive theology is going to take us back to the key insights of the Reformers as they eschewed Presbyterianism, Puritanism and Papacy.

But what structural form this resurgent global Anglicanism will take is not yet determined (in my view). However, in a further clue from the days of the Reformation and of the subsequent Elizabethan Settlement, it is likely to be a form which wins wide popularity, a form to which people happily subscribe.

There are two forms of Anglican fellowship which I do not think will win popular, global subscription. On these I will pronounce blog tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I salute the NZ Catholic Bishops

Over in Rome a vital meeting of bishops is being held.

Francis wants to get to the question of Catholics hurting because of the way in which teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is excluding people from communion if not from the church itself.

Fair enough: it is very hard to find the dots from Jesus' teaching on marriage to Jesus teaching on communion and make a line through them which shuts people out from communion. Not impossible but hard. And the hard line is affecting people who are more or less innocent of the charges brought against them, that they are continuing adulterers.

What to do?

Well, if you would like an upfront, brutally honest, look at me, I agree with the church's teaching and it doesn't hurt me one little bit, then read Louise Mensch in the Spectator. As fine an exposition of the line which many Catholics would like held, come what may, lest the whole teaching of the church fall down for touching one part of it.

Then, to rub salt in the potential wound Francis is opening up for inspection, read Damian Thompson, also in the Spectator, who says that Francis has created a crisis for the church.

At this point we might as well give up on hopes for change because its, er, you know, meddling and stuff, from the Pope no less, and he should know better than to follow that wacky, out of line Kasper bloke.

Actually, no. No, Louise. No, Damian.

The crisis is a crisis engendered by people who, for one reason and another are finding that their personal lives do not conform to the church's teaching in one area and are bruised by their being shut out in another area - just the slightly important area of communion at the Mass!

One group of Catholic leaders 'get it'!

Step forward the NZ Catholic bishops. Read their statement of hopes and concerns as they head over to the meeting (which began yesterday). I like the way they reach out with understanding and concern:

"A strong sense of exclusion and hurt is felt by many people who are living in situations not in accord with Church teaching in areas such as divorce and re-marriage, cohabitation, contraception and same sex unions. This sense of exclusion and hurt is also felt by their family and friends, and by those in the wider community who see what they consider to be the exclusion of others. 

The sense of exclusion can come from one or all of the following:
  • The existence of the teaching itself, which on its own is seen to exclude those who can’t match the ideal.
  • Hard-line un-pastoral presentation of the teaching, in a few cases by priests, but mostly by organizations or individuals who “police” the “rules”.
  • The attitudes of some parishioners which are perceived to be, or actually are, judgmental in relation to the life situation of others.
  • A strong personal sense of failure, of “not meeting the ideal” set by the Church, and therefore a feeling of not being accepted in the Church community.
There are a number of Catholics struggling to stay in their faith community who have been deeply wounded by the judgmental and sometimes righteous attitudes of individuals and groups who see themselves as upholding or policing the Church’s teaching. 

At the same time those who feel excluded and hurt, or unable to “live up to the teaching” as they described it, also have a deep sense of connection to the Church. They spoke of “hanging on” to their faith in Jesus Christ while trying to deal with painful feelings of being excluded from the Church. Supportive Individuals (priests, parishioners and relatives) emerged as the best catalysts for strengthening their sense of belonging to the Church.

Many respondents considered that the Church’s definition of family implicit in the questions lacks understanding of the diverse nature of modern families. The emphasis on the family as mother, father and children has led many other family groupings to feel that in the Church’s eyes (or in the view of their faith community) their families are inferior; for example, grandparents bringing up grand children, parents bringing up children alone, families resulting from second marriages, and culturally-sanctioned adoptions within extended families. 

Respondents to the questions indicated strongly that sexual abuse by clergy has undermined their faith in priests and bishops as teachers in matters of sexual morality. Many questioned the right of celibate men to “prescribe” what is right or wrong for married couples. 
In both online and other submissions, gratitude and appreciation were expressed for the opportunity to contribute. A number of people were courageous in sharing personal stories which were difficult and painful, or the difficulties they have with various aspects of the Church’s teaching. Others expressed their support for the teaching and wrote about how they tried to be faithful to it in their families. We were deeply impressed by the way in which people are striving to live according to the gospel, whatever the circumstances of their lives."

Apart from a general interest in this situation, I want to build out from this post to think again about the state of the Anglican Communion, on what we have missed by rejecting the Covenant, and on why I think all is not bleak for Anglican theology and practice as we move forward from current troubles. More soon(ish) ... as time permits!

Postscript: Bosco Peters has also written on the synod with the title 'Marriage Lite?'

There I make this comment:

"Alongside ‘marriage-lite’ I suggest a need to talk about ‘truth-lite’ (in respect of whether marriages can be annulled in the way Romans say they can … hasn’t a process to sort out unfortunate mistakes in marriage (“Help, I have married within the degrees of sanguinity!”) now stretched to find any and every possible way to annul a marriage rather than consider that, actually, a genuine marriage has been dissolved?), ‘mercy-lite’ (in respect of whether failure in marriage deserves ongoing refusal to participate in communion), and ‘sin-lite’ (in respect of all the Catholics currently receiving communion thinking they are married but when their marriage breaks down and they receive an annulment, doesn’t that mean that they were living in sin for all those years they thought they were married?)"

Monday, October 6, 2014

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

(The first two posts in this series are here (1) and here (2). This post makes much more sense if they are read first.)

What is the future of agreed, common prayer in the life of ACANZP?

This question, I suggest, is at the heart of synodical decisions made since the introduction of the NZPB in 1989 as well as present attempts to clarify confusions and reign in unchecked diversity (Chloe's fluffy pink slippers).

In support of continuing to work on agreed, common prayer and to conduct worship according to our agreement together are powerful arguments. These include:

- safeguarding faithful expression of our doctrine: we pray what we believe and believe what we pray. Licence to individual expressions of worship lead all too quickly to esoteric doctrines and eccentric practices;
- identifying who we are as a distinctive gathering of Christians: Anglicans follow an agreed, common liturgy.

In the extreme case of removing common liturgy from our worship services, why would we call ourselves 'Anglican'? There is a point in Anglican liturgical life where the service we offer, whether more Roman than Rome or blander than the blandest set of 'songs with a sermon', cries out for honest declaration, 'We are no longer Anglican!'

But there is a 'but'. Across many parishes in ACANZP there is a crisis which I describe in this way: with a few exceptions, fewer and fewer people under the age of 50 attend services which follow the prayer book.

This is not to say that under 50s attending popular Anglican-but-where-is-the-prayer-book? services are attending illegal services - the point has been well made previously here and @ Liturgy that our current rules not only allow a bendy bus to be driven through them but do not mind if the bus is a double-decker or has a troupe of contortionists for passengers. But it is to say that if we tightened our rules we might constrain ourselves to a liturgical place few younger people would choose to go to.

Picking up a well made comment to my previous Chloe post (by Simon, here), there are many possibilities for doing better what we currently do when we are following NZPB, so that tightening of our rules need not constrain ourselves to liturgical unpopularity with younger generations.

My personal 'top' suggestions are:

- train ourselves in following minimal requirements of p. 404 (remember, every 'may' is something we do not need to do) in order to maximise the 'service time' available for things which connect with younger generations (e.g. songs, testimony, sermons delivered collaboratively ... even, though personally it is not my 'thing', having a coffee break in the middle);
- (adjust our rubrics to) advance the shortest 'full' eucharistic prayer in NZPB (p. ) to the status of an alternative eucharistic prayer for use with p. 404;
- work on sermons ... is each sermon I (or you) preach worth a person coming to church in its own right (whatever is going on with the rite!)? If the sermon alone was worth coming to church for AND if the service (without sermon) was worth coming to church for I think we might see greater regularity in attendance. [Note for overseas readers, a common complaint of ministers across denominations here is the irregularity of attendance at Sunday worship: '3 out of 5 Sundays' is the new 'regular'].

The above comments, however, are largely about being faithfully Anglican in communities generally willing to be faithfully Anglican.

While I have not visited the congregations Bishop John Bluck visited and which catalysed his Chloe's pink slippers remarks, I wonder if some of what he experienced involved ministers exploring edges of worship in the missional reality of today's largely disinterested in traditional Christianity Kiwiland.

The crisis of our congregations being mostly older folks is not just a crisis of liturgical worship not keeping up with changing expectations of younger generation Anglicans. It is part of the crisis of Christianity, of the gospel in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Are our current and possible future revised liturgical rules adequate for our mission?

In a day when we are talking 'Fresh Expressions', 'Pioneer ministry,' working on church plants for new housing developments, ways and means to reach new immigrants to our islands, we are arguably closer to the days of the apostles than we have been for a long time.

In apostolic times, let us remember, the apostles constantly developed new strategies for reaching unreached peoples, translating the gospel into new languages and making up liturgies as they went along (albeit anchored into the single command of Jesus, 'Do this ...').

If we are serious about mission in NZ today we need - IMHO - to reckon with the possibility that Anglicans in mission will change what 'Anglican' means in respect of liturgy.

In part that is because in the present crisis of the gospel we are being pressed to offer the gospel in a language (or languages) which bears no relation to the 'Anglican' dialect: to communicate the gospel in a mode which is heard today in many contexts is likely to involve jettisoning of Anglicana (which, let's face it, is well shaped for Christendom and struggling in a post-Christendom world).

Just as missionaries re-imagine the gospel and consequentially the church in cultures foreign to the missionaries, so Anglican missionaries to cultures 'foreign' to the culture of our upbringing may, even must require re-imagination in the 21st century.

If so, that raises the question what kinds of liturgical rules should govern mission pioneers developing fresh expressions of being church in rapidly changing cultures (and sub-cultures).

Perhaps there shouldn't be any rules!

But whether there should or shouldn't be rules to follow as new churches are developed, I suggest we desperately need to consider some formal means of saying, 'this is the shape of a new form of being Anglican in a post-Christendom world' alongside revising present liturgical rules to clearly articulate what being Anglican in close continuity with Anglican heritage means today (shaped in Christendom).

If this were 1998 and I were voting in General Synod again

I would vote for the change to the rubrics on p. 511 I voted for then. But my reasoning would be less focused on providing for flexibility in current Anglican worship and more focused on enabling the church to adapt to the coming day of 'new' churches.

What I am not saying!!

I am not saying that Anglican liturgists in Anglican settings (most services currently in most churches) should have complete flexibility to do what they see as right in their own eyes. Not at all.

In those settings we can and should not only obey current rules, but seek to honour God and God's people by doing liturgy well, faithful to our agreed, common prayer. We should do better than our current messy rules provide for!

Congregations should not be 'victims' of the individual whims of liturgists as they cross a word out here and add a phrase in their to suit their 'uncommon' disagreement with the common, agreed prayer of our church.

I am not saying that there is anything wrong at all with well led, well prepared liturgy according to Anglican custom and tradition when Christians gather intent on continuing to worship in the great tradition of the church.

What I am asking

In crossing new frontiers in mission (post modern, 21st century, Post Christendeom, secularist-yet-spiritual, etc), do Anglicans in ACANZP have the liturgical rules which serve that mission?