Sunday, November 30, 2014

Church buildings do matter

A lot of church properties are for sale. Some more are going to be on the market soon - in South Canterbury where I am archdeacon. The Sunday Star Times tells the story of some currently up for sale here.

It is all very well saying that church is the people and church buildings do not matter but invariably the people of God have sought a house for themselves, if not for God to dwell in and the sale of churches means one of three things.

One: just possibly the 'church is the people not the buildings' mantra has led to a radical re-think re the use of buildings and, say, the congregation now meets solely in each other's houses.

Two: the church is being sold because of congregational growth. A bigger building is required. (This seems never to be the case with country churches which feature in the majority of cases the article touches on).

Three: the church is being sold because it is surplus to requirements. The existing Presbyterian church, say, may be surplus to requirements as the joint congregation now meets comfortably in the local Anglican church (or vice versa).

Three matters! The Sunday Star Times is correct: congregational numbers in many parts of the country are dwindling.

Are the churches alarmed about this decline?

Yes and No.

Yes, because we are seeing many initiatives being taken to respond to changing circumstances. The Sunday Star Times article does not tell us, for instance, of the growing congregations which are renting school halls, or even building new buildings. Many of these growing congregations are 'new' churches - a denomination or network unheard of a few decades back, or a new expression of an older denomination filled with new immigrants. Yesterday, for instance, I drove up Papanui Road past the new 'Chinese Methodist' church arising on the site of a previously damaged older Methodist building. Then there is the rising interest in Fresh Expressions of church.

No, because (just to take one denomination I know slightly well) you will struggle to find in Anglican synods, let alone our General Synod, great signs of urgency or anxiety about decline. I say no 'great signs' because there are small signs of concern as we find motions re evangelism, mission, baptisms and confirmations. But aren't the signs of the times warranting us spending, say, two whole days of a General Synod examining with great urgency, frankness and well prepared statistics the challenges we face going forward?

Church buildings matter at least in this way: when they are up for sale they are telling us something about what is happening to the people of God.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dissenting Anglicans in ACANZP [UPDATED]

It is not all bad Anglican news today. Thinking Anglicans reports a pleasing increase in cathedral worship attendance. But read the report to see just where the increase is happening. Interesting!

Tomorrow our ACANZP Motion 30 Way Forward working group meets. Many in our church continue to wait with bated breath to see what way forward there might be. My personal anxiety is that some friends and colleagues seem to be involved in second guessing what the way forward is and are preparing for a way out. Patience, brothers and sisters!

Here is a brief thought from me, should anyone in the Way Forward group chance by here today. (If your BFF is on the group, you could forward the link!)

One way to view the situation we are in as we move forward in terms of Motion 30 is to frame it in terms of "dissent."

On the one hand, there is effectively a call for permission for legitimate dissent from those who wish to bless same sex relationships even when the formal apparatus of our church (constitution, canons, formularies) do not provide for such blessings because they continue (or, would continue if we do not agree to change them) to uphold marriage being between a man and a woman. This call for permission for legitimate dissent extends, of course, to those bishops/dioceses who wish to ordain ministers for the church who live in a same sex partnership.

On the other hand, there is an anxiety on the part of those disagreeing with possible (probable?) change to constitution, canons and formularies as to whether, post change, dissent from disagreeable changes will be legitimate. The anxiety extends to concern as to whether legitimate dissent from the authority of General Synod itself - in respect of matters concerning same sex partnerships - is going to be possible. (Recall that to receive a licence to minister in our church, the recipient must declare that they submit to the authority of the General Synod).

Now, I imagine the lawyers among us have their own anxieties about phrases such as 'legitimate dissent.' Not least because in ecclesiastical history it seems to have been difficult for churches to tolerate dissenters and life made easier when dissenters leave to form a new church.

Nevertheless one way of understanding what Motion 30 means and where the Way Forward lies is that we are going to try to find a way for legitimate dissent to occur as part of maintaining our life together.

Now here is a thought to mull over. Please mull before rushing to comment ...

If, from one side, some of us would wish that we might be granted leave to legitimately dissent from the status quo (if it does not suit our views), should we not be open to others being granted leave to legitimately dissent from the status quo which suits our views?

In other words, if I as a conservative am anxious as to whether future change will be accompanied by the right to legitimate dissent, should I not be open to progressives being able to dissent from the status quo if nothing changes?

What do you think?


In respect of the last paragraph, a correspondent has pointed out to me that for a long time now, conservatives have been open to, or at least accommodated dissent in our church re same sex partnerships being blessed or people in such partnerships being ordained. That is, with rare exceptions, dissenting actions have not been formally challenged by conservatives via legal means. (Probably slightly more than 'rare' have been the occasions when informal challenges have been made, e.g. via conversation with bishops).


Here is one idea which has come to me since yesterday morning re expressing legitimate dissent in the case in which our church does make legal provision for the blessing of same sex partnerships. 

The proposal below presumes that the canon on marriage has not been changed (that being a bridge too far for many if not all conservatives keen to find a way to remain within the life of ACANZP).

In respect of the signing of Declarations (of submission to the authority of General Synod, of adherence to the constitution and canons of our church) in order for licensed ministers/officers of the church to receive their licence (or to be voting members of vestry etc), that there be two options:

Option A: to sign the Declarations in toto and without exception (i.e. as at present)

Option B: to sign the Declarations with an Exception Clause along these lines, "I submit ... Except in respect of "new canon (re blessings)" and reserve the  right to teach and uphold the Doctrine of Christ as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty Nine Articles and A New Zealand Prayer Book [as at the day before the new canon comes into effect]."

No doubt lawyers among us, bush and otherwise qualified through less prestigious institutions (!!), could much improve on this suggestion.

Your thoughts?

A vital challenge to the actual lawyers among us, to our bishops and other leading figures among us is to provide for such a form of dissent so that it applies inclusively to future clergy and office-holders as to present clergy and office-holders.

Conservatives are not interested in the preservation of present job security. We are interested in the future life, growth and development of our church. We note that in many parts of our church expressions of interest in ordination come from young people in conservative parishes.

It's not rocket science ...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Commenting Policy

All commenters are welcome here who:

1. Offer engagement with issues discussed in posts here. (That excludes bots and spammers!)

2. Are respectful of other commenters (That is, comment on comments, not on commenters).

3. Do not make statements about other commenters not being members of Christ's church (That is, if (e.g.) you believe only Calvinist Methodists make up the true church of God and make a point of saying that others here are not members of the true church, keep that belief to yourself or pronounce it on another blog).

4. Do not make adverse comments about other commenters who remain members of a church (That is, do not comment to the effect that X ought to leave the Anglican Church of Y because it is unfaithful/heretical/etc).


5. Unless I know personally who you are, no pseudonyms. Give a name, first or first and surname. Some rare exceptions will be allowed (e.g. remaining anonymous if sharing something highly personal; for uncontroversial comments some allowance can be made when commenters forget to append their name).

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Monday 24 November 2014

Supplied by a colleague in the UK ...

1. Three talks on The World as God sees it  - Hugh Palmer - All Souls Audio

2. NT Evidence for the Hebrew Jesus Spoke - Dr Steven Notley - Lanier Theological Library Vimeo

Commentary for Sunday 23rd November
3. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

4. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

5. The bells of All Saints Church, Allesley in Coventry - BBC Radio 4

6. Choral Matins [Morning Prayer] from the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace for the Feast of Christ the King, preacher is the Bishop of London - BBC Radio 4

7. Choral Evensong from Clare College, Cambridge - BBC Radio 3

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

9. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

10. 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 and Kenya; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.
11. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Kenya: Kenya bus attack: Al-Shabab 'wants religious war' - BBC News
Nigerian Archbishop on Boko Haram: We must storm the heavens with prayer - Christian Today
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

12. Sunday Programme - with William Crawley - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought
13. The story of Temple Gairdner and outreach to Muslim neighbors - Bishop Mouneer Anis

14. A Hymn for St Cecilia - Howells - Somerville Choir

Friday, November 21, 2014

Keep within the teaching

I love reading the Bible and finding new insights. The other day there was this gem in 2 John:

"If anybody does not keep within the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he cannot have God with him: only those who keep to what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them." (v.9, Jerusalem Bible).

This is a little different to the next verse which speaks of our human response to heretics. Here in verse 4 we are solemnly warned that when we go beyond the teaching of Christ we do not have God with us.

At the heart of all theological debates, including those within the Anglican Communion is the question of the 'doctrine of Christ' (to use a phrase from the constitution of ACANZP). What is it? What goes beyond it? What keeps us within it?

John in this verse challenges us about the big picture of theological debate. The point of debate is to clarify the teaching of Christ. To fail to do this, to end up going beyond the teaching of Christ is to run the worst of all human risks, the risk that we no longer have God the Father and Son with us.

We sometimes joke that If God left the church, Would anyone notice?

In the midst of our debates it is quite possible that we would not notice that God was no longer with us. Debates have that ability to focus our attention on the debate and not on (say) the truth, or on the fact that the debating hall is burning down around us.

What if we debated with eyes open to the possibility that if we get the outcome wrong, if we go beyond the teaching of Christ, then we can no longer presume God is with us.

It is possible to have the form of religion without the content. To be sure we have the content with the form, we need to pay attention to what we teach and to strive to stay within the bounds of Christ's teaching.

Likely I will add to this post as I reflect further on 2 John over the weekend.

What does the author of 2 John understand the content of the doctrine or teaching of Christ to be?

From the content of Jesus' own teaching, the author mentions the 'new commandment' of love, 'let us love one another' (5) and spells out what love is, 'that we walk according to his commandments' (6).

So far so enigmatically Johannine! What are these commandments?

Turning back a few pages to 1 John we find reference there also to 'commandments' plural (3:22) yet then are told that 'this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us' (23).

So, back to 2 John, we remain within the teaching of Jesus when we believe in him and love one another.

Yet the author of 2 John has another concern which moves us outside of the 'teaching of Christ' = teaching taught by Christ, but focuses our minds on 'teaching about Christ':

'Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!' (7)

Since the warning to remain within the teaching of Christ follows this verse we may assume that when the author talks about remaining in the teach of Christ he also means we should remain in the teaching about Christ (that is, the true teaching about the truth of Jesus Christ).

In this case the author is concerned about heretics teaching that Jesus did not come in the flesh, that is, was not a full human being (perhaps because they taught that the flesh of humanity is evil and Jesus, as one from God could not possibly share in it).

Writing in the 20th or 21st century the author might have another, opposite concern about heresy, about those who teach that the all too human Jesus was not really the divine Son of God!

It is not a stretch in either logic or imagination to see that the author means by the 'teaching of Christ', the teaching which tells us the truth about who Jesus is, who the God of Jesus Christ is, what Jesus commanded us, and what Jesus taught us. Writing late in the period in which the New Testament was composed the author is implicitly affirming Scripture (the gospels and the apostolic epistles which have become our New Testament and the writings which we describe as the Old Testament, since they formed part of what Jesus taught).

The risks are high if we either deny Scripture or go beyond it.

We stand to lose God!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Facts on the ground, ecclesiastical change by stealth, you have been warned!

For quite a bit of the 2000s -as I recall - a mantra doing the rounds of conservative blogs concerned about the spread of liberal Anglicanism went something like this, "Watch Out! Liberals are changing the church through facts on the ground." That is, by pushing some practice or other to be tolerated rather than disciplined, liberal activists (so the narrative went) created 'facts' about church life which laid a foundation for a future change to ecclesiastical polity which caught up with the change.

Well, is another church up to the same tricks? Is at least one 'liberal activist' creating 'facts on the ground' which paves the way for future ecclesiastical polity change. In this case the change concerns marriage and the church. Guess who the activist is?

Answer: here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brutal honesty: broken Communion may not be fixed

++Justin offers a masterful review of state of Communion in his Presidential Address to the current session of the English General Synod (here, also here). The following points stand out for me (within which I have emboldened some words):

"First of all, and this needs to be heard very clearly, the Anglican Communion exists and is flourishing in roughly 165 countries. There has been comment over the last year that issues around the Communion should not trouble us in the Church of England because the Communion has for all practical purposes ceased to exist. Not only does it exist, but almost everywhere (there are some exceptions) the links to the See of Canterbury, notwithstanding its Archbishop, are profoundly valued.  The question as to its existence is therefore about what it will look like in the future. "

"Secondly, Anglicanism is incredibly diverse. ...

At the same time there is a profound unity in many ways. Not in all ways, but having said what I have about diversity, which includes diversity on all sorts of matters including sexuality, marriage and its nature, the use of money, the relations between men and women, the environment, war and peace, distribution of wealth and food, and a million other things, underpinning us is a unity imposed by the Spirit of God on those who name Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. This diversity is both gift and challenge, to be accepted and embraced, as we seek to witness in truth and love to the good news of Jesus Christ."

"Thirdly, the potential of the Communion under God is beyond anything we can imagine or think about. We need to hold on to that, there is a prize, the quest for which it is worth almost anything to achieve. The prize is visible unity in Christ despite functional diversity.  It is a prize that is not only of infinite value, but also requires enormous sacrifice and struggle to achieve.  Yet if we even get near it we can speak with authority to a world ..."

"Our divisions may be too much to manage."

"In many parts of the Communion, including here, there is a belief that opponents are either faithless to the tradition, or by contrast that they are cruel, judgemental, inhuman. I have to say that we are in a state so delicate that without prayer and repentance, it is hard to see how we can avoid some serious fractures."

"the future of the Communion requires sacrifice.  The biggest sacrifice is that we cannot only work with those we like, and hang out with those whose views are also ours.  Groups of like-minded individuals meeting to support and encourage each other may be necessary, indeed often are very necessary, but they are never sufficient.  Sufficiency is in loving those with whom we disagree.  What may be necessary in the way of party politics, is not sufficient in what might be called the polity of the Church."

After noting that no Primates' Meeting will be called unless the majority of Primates think that should happen, and there will be no Lambeth Conference if the Primates do not think that should happen, ++Justin observes,

"The key general point to be established is how the Anglican Communion is led, and what its vision is in the 21st century, in a post-colonial world? How do we reflect the fact that the majority of its members are in the Global South, what is the role of the Instruments of Communion, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, and what does that look like in lived out practice?  These are great decisions, that must be taken to support the ongoing and uninterrupted work of ministering to a world in great need and in great conflict. Whatever the answer, it is likely to be very different from the past."

++Justin is brutally honest here. Realistic, hopeful, yet cannot see how the broken unity (or visible disunity) can be repaired without considerable sacrifice. Are you and I willing to make it?

What if it turned out that Jesus didn't insist on male priests?

Curious remarks here by Cardinal Sean O'Malley. Obviously Jesus founded the church and not Sean. But did Jesus bequeath the church the order of male only priests?

Some Protestant wits might suggest that Jesus didn't bequeath the church any priests, male or female :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Unpacking those Anglican mysteries

"Eight years ago I attended an Anglican church for the first time. As a Baptist pastor's daughter I was suddenly transplanted into a church community where men sometimes wear dresses, people sprinkle water on babies' heads, drink real wine at communion, and recite familiar phrases aloud together during their services.

Despite growing up in church pews there was still so much that was mysterious: who were the Vestry and what did they do? Would I ever know the words to The Grace off by heart? Would they still give me communion if I didn't cup my hands just right?"

Read on here to find out what Sophia Sinclair made of her time in the Anglican church (here in Christchurch).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Give Up Your Small Ecumenical Ambitions - the Good News

Answering Jesus' prayer for the unity of his disciples is an immense challenge as previous posts here have indicated. But ever the optimist I suggest we do not descend into ecumenical gloom and doom.

One specific reason for not being gloomy about future prospects for one global communion of all Christians is the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. We should never act or think as though the Spirit is constrained by our own lack of ability to foresee better days to come. We could also contemplate all that we can see that the Spirit is achieving among us in our day.

Here I want to begin a list of the things which actually unite us. You could help by adding to the list in the comments. The list, I suggest, offers both reason for ecumenical thanksgiving as well as hope for the future.

In no particular order of significance ...

1. Christians accept the Apostles' Creed.

2. Only a few words of the Nicene Creed divide Christians who otherwise accept all the other words of this creed.

3. Without specific heads of churches agreement forcing the matter, from the ground up many churches are united in following a common lectionary. In itself this is a recognition that Scripture (noting 4 below) itself is a continuing matter of global commonality for Christians.

4. While acknowledging differences concerning the canon of the scriptures between Easter and Western Christianity, and within Western Christianity, all Christians are united on the canon of New Testament Scriptures.

5. Trinitarian baptism is practised by the vast majority of churches, and, with exceptions such as the Salvation Army, baptism remains the common initiation rite of those churches.

Can you add to this list? Do you disagree with one or more items on this list?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Monday 10 November 2014 (including Remembrance Day links)

(Supplied by a colleague in the UK)

1. True Love - Vaughan Roberts - St Ebbes Audio [Ezekiel 16:8-19 and Revelation 2:1-7]

2. Growth through Hardship - Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrews Singapore Audio [Psalm 63]

3. The Legitimacy of Political Authority - Donald Hay - St Andrew's Oxford Audio [Romans 13:1-7 and Mark 12:13-17]

4. Heaven - Billy Graham video

5. Three talks from Bishop Ken Clarke of SAMS Ireland - South Carolina Clergy Conference Audio
The Double Vision of Jesus with an introduction from Bishop Mark Lawrence
Failure is not Final
Do you love me?

Commentary for Sunday 9th November
6. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

7. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

8. The bells of St Lawrence, Towcester in Northamptonshire - BBC Radio 4

9. Remembrance Sunday Worship from Camp Bastion and Northern France - BBC Radio 4

10. Ceremony of Remembrance from the Cenotaph - BBC Radio 4 - 10:30 am London Time Sunday [5:30am Eastern Time]
Coverage on BBC One TV [UK only] starts at 10:25 am BST Sunday
and highlights on BBC Two TV [UK Only] at 5:30 pm BST Sunday

11. Sunday Hour for Remembrance - BBC Radio 2

12. Live coverage from Trafalgar Square - Royal British Legion Livecast

13. Choral Evensong from Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford broadcast in 1974 - BBC Radio 3

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

15. Prayers for Remembrance Day - Church of England
and the Armed Forces
Prayers from [Australian] Defence Anglicans
Prayer for Veterans Day [US]

6. A Prayer from the Royal British Legion
Remember, 0 Lord, all those who have died the death of honour and are departed in the hope of resurrection to Eternal Life, especially the Officers, Men and Women of our Sea, Land and Air Forces, to whom it was given to lay down their lives for the cause of Freedom and Justice In that place of light, whence sorrow and mourning are far vanished, give them rest, 0 Lord, the Lover of Men. Grant this for Thine only Son, Jesus Christ’s sake.

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 and Pakistan; for peace in Ukraine, Egypt, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

17. Iraq Region:
Kurdish children detained, tortured and forced to watch beheading videos by ISIS - Christian Today
more Media Reports from FRRME

18. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Nigeria: Christians tortured and killed in Mubi - Open Doors
Pakistan: Into the Fiery Furnace: Christian Couple in Pakistan Burned for Blasphemy - Christianity Today
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

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

Food for thought
20. Anglican Clergy Poll - BRIN and follow the links for original research
We need more Christians in politics say MPs - Gillan Scott
Billy Graham at 96: what we can learn from the great evangelist - Christian Today
Mental Illness, the Church, and a Helpful Resource - Christianity Today
Toward Viral: What Exponential Growth Might Look Like: New Life Community Church - Christianity Today

21. Remembrance Sunday in today’s world - Rev Stephen Trott
Making the Poppies - HRP video
Installing the Poppies
First World War sculpture unveiled in Trafalgar Square – RBL

22. Andy Grant - Help for Heroes Video

23. Tower of London's sea of red poppies from the air – BBC
In pictures

24. My soul, there is a country - Hubert Parry - Royal Holloway Choir

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jesus likes Connecticut Episcopalians

A while ago, perhaps on another site, perhaps here, I have made the point that we should not use the title 'Father' for priests because Jesus expressly taught against it (Matthew 23:9). Vigorous response was the reply. Paul likened himself to a father to new converts, etc.

Anyway, some Anglicans 'get it'. Step forward the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. You can read their resolution seeking the abolition of gendered titles here.

Sorry, Fr. Ron. It is just going to be plain 'Ron' from now on :)

Give Up Your Small Ecumenical Ambitions - a Warning

Jesus basically said that nothing much about the Christian life would be easy. Even he prayed for ecumenical unity. If unity just happened, he would not have prayed for it to happen!

So today's continuing preliminary skirmish on ecumenicity, preliminary to some, hopefully, more meaty thoughts about what makes up the ecumenical sandwich in the 21st century, is a Warning to follow yesterday's Preface.

The warning comes via Damian Thompson, arguably the youngest looking curmudgeon in the Roman blogosphere. In this post and comments below it, we have a neat view of how division among Christians breaks out, even in the otherwise monolithic Roman church. One thinks one thing, another thinks differently, a third challenges the authority of the leadership, either because it supports one thing or it fails to support that thing, then threats are made that a new church may need to be schismatically formed in order that one thing (or another thing) is fostered, with the bonus of being free of the supporters of the other thing which is so disagreeable.

Occasionally (as in the comments to Damian's post) someone steps out of the battle to observe that (e.g.) this is all about a relatively few remarried divorcees receiving communion. No one is proposing to increase the Trinity to four or deny that Jesus was fully human.

Meanwhile, in the battlefield now littered with  metaphorical corpses, a few people plaintively, if not foolishly, ask whether we might not do better at unity. The sight of the corpses is a warning about how hard the road to perdition unity is.

All is not unwell. Bosco Peters reminds us of an item recently circulating in the news: friendly relations between Old Catholics and Roman Catholics. Given the full communion existing between Anglicans and Old Catholics, this has to be good ecumenical news!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Give Up Your Small Ecumenical Ambitions - a Preface

Last week at St John's College I made a brief presentation on giving up our small ecumenical ambitions for the sake of an ambition to answer Jesus' own prayer that we may be one.

I want to write more about that - sometime - but a way into thinking further about how ecumenical gains could be made in this century is to read a report by Paul Butler (H/T Fr Ron Smith).

Previously noted here, +Paul (Durham) was an Anglican observer at the recent synod in Rome. In this report he ranges from personal experiences of worship, informal hospitality and presence in the synod. His experiences touch some of my own (e.g. the presence of genuine Biblical exposition in the Mass, representing a move away from citation of the Magisterium).

Ecumenism at the very least is the converging of church theology and practice into a mutual conformity to the teaching and example of Christ. Whether or not you or I urge greater moves, or for that matter resist them, the Spirit is at work among us.

PS Incidentally, the kind of ecumenical development noted within +Paul's article is very much 'evolutionism' rather than 'creationism'. Is it a clue as to how God works in all spheres of life?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I am with the Christians who pray to Allah ... oh, and Katy Perry's Guide to Karl Barth

Sometimes I have been asked, Should Christians in Arabic countries translate God with 'Allah'? The concern being that Christians using 'Allah' might convey a wrong understanding of the God of Jesus Christ. It would be better, of course, to ask Arabic Christians what they think. But in a twist to the question, Christians in Malaysia want to use 'Allah' for God and are banned for doing so.

The NYT has a challenging report on the issue facing Christians in this predominantly Muslim country. The ban from using their common word for 'God', that is, 'Allah', applies anywhere outside of churches. This has implications for the publication of Bibles. But is it all a political ploy to magnify minimal threats to Islam? And is it making Malaysia the laughing stock of the Islamic world?

Sticking with Islam, Steve Bell's blog publishes an article on the roots of Islamism worth a look. It makes an important point about the power of ideas and consequentially on the best way to respond to warring ideologies.

I note via Taonga that one aspect of warring ideologies, fighting between Shi'ites and Sunnis, appears to be erupting on the streets of Sydney. Don't go to Syria. Syria is coming to you.

Sometimes Catholics and Protestants have been at war too, both with bullets and with ideas. But Pope Francis is keen to discuss ideas. On the question of the day, marriage, he has invited Protestants to a colloquium. Can you guess which leading Prots are going? Answers here.

Katy Perry, who greets me most mornings in a fetching - that's code for "not many clothes on" - outfit via a poster on my daughter's bedroom wall, is the daughter of Pentecostal pastors (we may recall). What we may not know is that she is a metrical guide to the theology of Karl Barth. Well, sort of. Ace theologian Michael Bird has de-coded the hidden meaning of "I kissed a girl and I liked it." The translated version is here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Will Anglican conservatives be left behind? Are Roman conservatives the new Pharisees? (2)

One reason why Anglican conservatives are Anglican conservatives is that other forms of conservative Christianity have their downsides.

The extraordinary story of the growth of the Mars Hill churches under the leadership of Mark Driscoll - an example of one man bandist conservatism?- has now become the story of ballooning growth followed by sudden deflation as the network announces it is dissolving itself following Pastor Driscoll's resignation.

An obvious virtue of the "mainline" denominations, slightly boring though they may be in the face of Mars Hill type stories during their growing phase, is that they never fall over when one person resigns or retires.

But what is the future of Anglican conservatism both locally (your patch or mine) and globally? Is the direction Rome is heading towards provoking conservatives to think carefully lest we get "left behind"? And I am not talking about the Rapture!

Consider. Under Francis as Pope the direction of Rome is towards being a church which both holds on to formal doctrine and extracts as much freedom within that framework to express mercy in the practice of the church's life, with special reference to fellowship at the Lord's Table. Let's call this direction "truth-and-mercy."

Is this a direction Anglican conservatism is heading in? Locally and globally?

Somehow, you see, Francis is managing to offer a text which says 'truth is unchanging' and a sub-text which says 'nevertheless I am going to work for mercy in its application.' Under his papacy Rome is attempting to speak about 'truth and mercy.'

A question we Anglicans should ask (IMHO) is whether the 'text' we offer is truth and the 'sub-text' conveys mercy or whether we offer a 'text' about truth which has a 'sub-text' which shows no mercy.

I find myself these days listening to fellow conservatives saying things re matters such as 'what the Bible teaches on human sexuality' (not terrifically different from Rome), 'if the church changes formally what is teaches through canons and constitution then ...' (i.e. locally, the Motion 30 debate in ACANZP), and 'we love and welcome gay and lesbian people in our congregations' (again, very similar to Rome).

Textually I understand what is being said, it is pretty much what I say myself, and it is consistent with the "truth" part of "truth-and-mercy."

But I wonder about the 'sub-text' of such talk.

If Anglican churches here and elsewhere, in the end, announce a 'text' concerning departure from established national/trans-national Anglican churches such as ACANZP because something changes about freedom to conduct blessings of same sex partnerships, what will the sub-text be?

No matter what the words of the 'text', will the sub-text of an announced departure be, "Gays and lesbians not welcome here"?

Or, will all be well?

All my questions here are questions for discussion. I am not a foreseer of the future. But my personal hunch is that I and other conservatives will not be departing because we cannot see how departing expresses mercy.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Spiritual and sacred links - Monday 3rd November 2014

One link I supply myself is to a Timaru Herald article about a new vicar being inducted (a service led by me in Bishop Victoria's absence). Another is to an interesting reflection on a possible Anglican Congress by Mark Harris at Preludium. Notable also is this sermon which makes reference to the ministry of my bishop, +Victoria Matthews.

The following links have been supplied by a UK colleague:

I hope some of this will be of assistance and use.   #5 Vaughan Roberts on encountering Jesus; #6 a brief talk from Andrew White's recent US church visits; #9-12 and #16 Some prayer talks and an interview from Tim Keller, prayer sites and information on the International Day/s of Prayer for the Persecuted Church; #15 reports on Christianity in Britain and China, commemoration of 800 years of Magna Carta and with recent church resignations for infidelity some thoughts on why this is happening.

Prayers for you this coming week.

1. The bells of St. Leonard's, Streatham in London - BBC Radio 4

2. Choral Evensong from Gloucester Cathedral with the Royal School of Church Music Millennium Youth Choir - BBC Radio 3

3. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

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

5. Face to face with Jesus - Vaughan Roberts - St Ebbes Audio [Daniel 10:1-9 and Revelation 1:9-20]

6. Dr Andrew White Sermon - All Saints Chevy Chase video

Commentary for Sunday 2nd November
7. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

8. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

9. Five talks on aspects of prayer from Tim Keller
How to pray the psalms
Fighting for solitude
Joy, sorrow and the healthy prayer life
We pray to a father
Prayers that don't work
Interview: 10 questions on prayer with Tim Keller

Some prayer sites:
10. Daily prayer from the Church of England
Lent and Beyond - Topical Anglican prayers
Pray as you go - helpful Ignatian ecumenical daily prayer from UK Jesuits
Prayers and songs from Taize - follow the links on the left

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
11. Christians Urged to Gather on International Day of Prayer as Persecution Reaches Unprecedented Levels – CP
International Day of Prayer site – WEA

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 Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria and Argentina; for peace in Ukraine, Egypt, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

12. Iraq Region:
Christian refugees 'have lost everything' - Open Doors
more Media Reports from FRRME

13. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Egypt: Request for prayer from Bishop Mouneer Anis
Sudan: Prayers after 5 children from same family killed in bomb attack in Nuba Mountains - Christian Today
Nigeria: 90 more abducted, 17 killed - Open Doors
Boko Haram leader says they have not agreed and ceasefire and teh schoolgirls abducted have been married off - Christian Today
Argentina: Attempted murder of Baptist pastor – CSW
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

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

15. Food for thought
The British Election Study 2015: Religious affiliation – BRIN
Religion in China: Cracks in the Atheist Edifice – Economist
Six reasons why I believe Halloween is far from harmless - J John – Mirror
Magna Carta Octocentenial site
British Library online copy and translation
A Magna Carta for 2015 - Rev Stephen Trott
Why Are So Many Middle-Aged Men Falling Into Sexual Sin? - Larry Tomczak - Charisma News
Part 2
Five reasons to trust the Gospels - Heather Tomlinson

16. International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church - IDOP Vimeo

17. Let all the world in every corner sing - Rodolphus Choir

18. Surfing at 1000 frames per second - Chris Bryan Vimeo