Monday, September 28, 2015

Closet Episcopalian?

Ross Douthat makes an amazing claim as he assesses the Pope's visit to America and the general themes emerging from his papacy:

"The second tendency, though, is one that Francis has tacitly encouraged, by empowering clerics and theologians who seem to believe that Rome’s future lies in imitating the moribund Episcopal Church’s approach to sex, marriage and divorce."

TEC and its supporters won't like Douthat's "moribund".

Francis and his supporters won't like the comparison with TEC ... There are more conservative Anglican churches with which comparison could be made :)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Welsh involved in sort of draw?

Not the Rugby World Cup, where Wales play England soon and each is desperate to win and a draw will help neither side in their quest to advance to the quarter finals. But the recent General Synod of the Anglican church in Wales came to a sort of draw. Technically the Synod voted in three houses to approve the bringing of legislation in favour of same sex marriage. But the voting was close enough for the bishops to take stock of the situation and deem it not appropriate to bring forward legislation.

You can read it here.

Wales would appear not to equal Canada (see below). Each church is a reminder of varying responses to the possibility of change re marriage in Anglican churches.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Humpty-Dumpty Updated or, how I can fix the Communion!!

Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall
Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty-Dumpty together again.

But in the case of the Anglican Communion this is not going to be true.
Humpty Communion Dumpty can be put back together again.

According to Giles Fraser.

There's no need to blame the usual suspects (say) John Spong or Peter Akinola or Gene Robinson or Peter Jensen or Rowan Williams or even Henry VIII for the Communion's 'great fall' in the last decade or so (H/T MCJ for that line).

No, Giles Fraser pins the blame on a man who may not even be an Anglican. And he is not talking about the Pope, the Patriarch or Richard Dawkins.

Tim Berners-Lee, that's the man.

Oh, and maybe all the Anglican bloggers who have taken advantage of hyperlinks!!

But Giles thinks that might be turned around, that Humpty-Dumpty might be put back together again (albeit with changes, more Dumpty-Humpty than Humpty-Dumpty).

Hyperlinks are the Anglican future :)

I shall play my part ...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

This might be important

Canadian Anglicans have published this report on marriage and changing their canon.

As I understand it, if their General Synod approves their recommended change to their marriage canon, the Canadian Anglican church would both approve same sex marriage AND approve opt outs ranging from diocesan synods prohibiting solemnizations of same sex marriage in their dioceses, to bishops so prohibiting, to congregations so prohibiting, to clergy being free to decline. Cake. Eat. Is it a way forward?

If the Communion splits, will we understand why?

There is a very good comment on the Fulcrum site where I mention my previous post. The comment is by Bowman Walton. I have emboldened some words which particularly strike me as illustrating the division in the Communion these last dozen years or so, why we will divide (formally, finally) absent a miracle, and why we might not understand how this will have come about:

"Some labels may change, Peter, and the path may be unpleasant at points, but all are going to get what they want in the end. Churches that love Anglican churchways and share global koinonia among themselves will keep both and maybe deepen them. Churches like TEC that love the churchways but viscerally fear that global koinonia will keep the former and will be released from the rights and responsibilities of the latter. The two sides may not like each other, but because they agree that they disagree on how strong a church or Communion should be, the long term outcome of this is not in serious doubt.
This result might be easier for some to take if we had a common narrative explaining how it happened that, at the same time that the Lambeth Conferences were becoming the cherished Anglican Communion in some places, those in other places were instead championing an idea that Anglicanism is the fundamentally the right to be left alone. Absent that narrative, neither side recognizes the legitimacy of the other. Some of us fail to see that the tacit norms we assume for global koinonia seem strange and menacing in churches with designedly weak governance structures such as TEC. The Anglican Communion Covenant proposed closer ties throughout the world than TEC had between Mark Lawrence’s South Carolina and Michael Curry’s North Carolina. Conversely, liberals gazing at all things through the lens of sex (eg in the Episcopal Cafe and Thinking Anglicans) cannot welcome any continuation of the koinonia story (eg Anglican Communion Covenant) as the missional outcome of a century-long process. Whether that reflects a taste for autonomy that rejects mutual subjection in Christ, or a disavowed yet visceral rejection of southern Anglicans, it comes to the same aversion to global koinonia. A common narrative could not narrow this chasm or make it less deep, but it could hold up a mirror to the two sides that they need to study."

In other words, what some have valued about the Anglican Communion has been that it has never deepened as a communion, it has been a meeting place for otherwise independent churches, but that is all, and (I imagine) the meetings have been pleasant affairs in sometimes exotic places and sometimes - Lambeth and all that - in historically significant places.

But what others have valued about the AC has been that it has been a promise of a deeper, tighter communion - the promise of all Christian communion, that we will be drawn deeper into the communion of the Trinity itself - which has not and now will not be fulfilled in the current form of the AC.

This misunderstanding of what the 'communion' part of the Anglican Communion means, according to Bowman Walton, that we have gotten to where we currently are without a common narrative to explain to all participants why this is so.

He also sees this lack of common narrative about what the Communion is/should become as determining the certain end of the Communion. (In my words) it is broken and it will break up. The break up will be into those churches which wish to be in a deep koinonia, where the koinonia is undergirded by common doctrine, and into those churches which wish to be in a light koinonia, where the koinonia is undergirded by anything and everything apart from doctrine (heritage, historical ties, bonds of affection).

Exactly which churches will be in which koinonia waits to be seen. Some are almost certain to be in one and not the other, but there might be some surprises among the Global South provinces, and Australia might find a way to be in both. NZ might too!

Whether the two (or more?) koinonia agree to relate together in a federation also remains to be seen.

There lies the rub. A significant contribution to the breakdown and thus to the break up Bowman Walton sees as inevitable is the inability of various churches/networks of churches within the Communion to compromise. Compromise is a dirty word in some quarters of Christianity but in the Anglican world it has generally been a way of moving forward, a way of agreeing to disagree while agreeing on what little may be agreed and thus on a new future. That future is always less than the promise each side would like fulfilled, but it is a com-promise, a different promise of a  less than ideal future, but a future together rather than a stand off, let alone a schism.

Could the PM in January lead to as light a compromise as the communions within the current Communion transitioning to a Federation of communions? Will the meeting result in the formalising of the break up which the current breakdown foretokens?

Above I mentioned 'absent a miracle.' The miracle in January 2016 would be that the unwillingness to compromise becomes a willingness to compromise. A super miracle would be the renewal of the Communion as a communion (i.e. all Primates take the eucharist together, all commit to cajoling all their bishops to come to the next Lambeth). A minor miracle would be the retention of some federal relationship between current members of the Communion while acknowledging the existence of different communions within that f/Federation.

POSTSCRIPT: Has the divorce already happened? And are these the reasons why reconciliation is not on the cards soon?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Federashun or Communniun?

Talk of the 'Anglican Communion' becoming a 'Federation' reminds me of a former leader of the former NZ 'Federation of Labour', Jim Knox, who was often cited by comics as pronouncing 'Federation' in the vernacular given in the title. I thought I would match it with 'Communion' in the vernacular too. All the better to illustrate how Inglush ought to be pronounced. Unless we are at Lambeth Palace. In which case could I have an interpreter please?

Talk of the Communion becoming a Federation is unsettling and one of the unsettled is Andrew Goddard who writes 'From Communion to ... Federation?' at Fulcrum. He kindly mentions my own recent post on the matter, though he disagrees with my prediction. But it is the words of Ruth Gledhill he takes particular aim at when she writes,

'The move towards a more federal model, an Anglican Federation along the lines of Europe's Lutheran Federation, is a much better model for the Church in today's world.'

Rightly Goddard deduces that no one in the Communion really wants a Federation instead of a Communion:

'The way forward after January is unlikely to be simply a reversion to an earlier attempted solution, whether the Dar Primates’ model or the Anglican Communion Covenant in its present form. It is, however, even less likely to be an agreement from the Primates that they need to embrace a “federation” model of global Anglicanism. This effectively abandons any claim to respect provincial interdependence (not to mention any doctrinal or ethical basis for unity which is clearly so important for many of the provinces whether in terms of the Jerusalem Declaration or the broader wording in Section One of the Covenant). Instead it gives unfettered freedom to provincial autonomy on the basis that we must all simply “agree to disagree”'

I wouldn't put my case that we are heading towards a 'Federation' in the words Gledhill uses because I do not think it would be 'a much better model for the Church in today's world.'

I remain convinced, with Andrew Goddard, in the importance of being an interdependent Communion. I agree with him as he analyses the implication of moving to a federation model with its consequential loss of the Anglican genius for the Communion we have enjoyed:

'It is very hard to see how a paradigm shift to a “looser” or “federation” model in any way shows “respect” for decades of theological and ecclesiological thought about what it means to be “a fellowship, within the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” identified in part by being “bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference” (a definition going back to Resolution 49 of the 1930 Lambeth Conference)'

The difficulty I have with what Goddard writes is that it does not look like it is possible. The AC of former days is not the present reality - the reality in which we are currently a federation of communions (with various overlaps, and with everyone claiming to still belong to the AC. But not all willing to share in the eucharist together).

So I would rephrase what Ruth Gledhill writes:

The move towards a more federal model, an Anglican Federation - no doubt along peculiarly Anglican lines - is the best model we can hope for the global Anglican churches in today's world to remain in some kind of connection with each other.

A commenter (below) has asked the following questions of the post above:

1) What do you define as "a communion"? A body of people* meeting in fellowship and sharing the eucharist together. 'Fellowship' implies holding things in common - koinonia - as well as a commitment to an interdependent life together. *In this context the 'people' may be episcopal/clerical/lay representatives of Anglican churches meeting as Lambeth, Primates, ACC. Added (in light of further comment): I am distinguishing at this point 'communion' and 'Communion'. The latter as in the 'Anglican Communion' or (if we so term) the Communion of Orthodox churches or those churches forming the Communion of the Western rite and Eastern rite Catholic churches speaks of a global organisation of churches (whether lightly or tightly organised). But in each such case these Communions are fellowships of churches willing to take communion together.
2) What do you define as "a federation"? A collection of communions with a commitment to meet together from time to time but no commitment to sharing the eucharist together when the full collection meets.
3) What do you mean by an "interdependent communion" (i.e. interdependent Communion), and how does it differ from a "communion"? 'Interdependent' underlines an aspect of 'communion' (see above). Strictly speaking it is redundant but I was emphasising a point made by Andrew Goddard.
4) In which years has the Anglican Communion ever satisfied your definition of a communion and/or an interdependent communion? 1867. OK, seriously, I acknowledge that the communion of the AC has been impaired since the ordination of women in the 1970s affected Communion meetings so that - so I understand - not all present would share the eucharist, and in individual churches some would not receive the eucharist from a presiding woman priest/bishop. Nevertheless across large swathes of the AC people got on with meeting together and, in 1998, if not all then nearly all bishops turned up to Lambeth and, as far as I know, prior to 2003, all Primates shared the eucharist at the Primates' Meetings. Thus the AC mostly but not completely satisfied my definition until c. 2003. Since then 'impairment' has shifted to 'broken' or 'divided' and thus I see the AC as not currently being an honest title for the global Anglican collection of churches.

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Monday 21 September 2015

Supplied by a UK colleague

Plenty to choose from this week: #1 Vaughan Roberts on what happens when we root ourselves in Christ; #2 Dean Terry Wong talks frankly about the challenges of living the Christian life; #3 Archbishop Mouneer Anis gave two talks at All Souls, Langham Place on the mass migration going on; #4 and #5 David Walker and Ajith Fernando explore prayer and the lessons from Nehemiah in depth; #12 Faure's Requiem in an outstanding recording from the late Sir David Willcocks in 1967 released now by King's College, Cambridge; #13 and 16 much to pray and think about.

Prayers for you for the coming week.

1. Remain in me [John 15:1-8] - Vaughan Roberts - St Ebbes Oxford Audio

2. The Christian Life: Purity [Ephesians 5:1-21] - Canon Terry Wong, the new Dean of St Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore - Audio [note: frank]

3. For Mission Sunday, Archbishop Mouneer Anis spoke at All Souls, Langham Place - Audio
Migration: World on the Move (1) [Matthew 2:1-15]
Migration: World on the Move (2) [Deuteronomy 10:12-22]

4. Join the Adventure [Nehemiah 1] - David Walker - HTB Video

5. Four more talks on Nehemiah - Ajith Fernando - FOCL Video
Passion for Our People: Nehemiah: 1:1-11
Preparing for the Challenge: Nehemiah: 1:11b-2:18
Responding to Opposition: Nehemiah 2:19-4:23
Grappling with Inequality: Nehemiah 5:1-19

6. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

7. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

8. The bells of  All Saints, Loughborough - BBC Radio 4

9. Choral Evensong from the Old Royal Naval College Chapel, Greenwich - BBC Radio 3

10. Sunday service live from St Helena's Beaufort, South Carolina available at 10:15 am Eastern Time 3:15 pm London Time
and afterwards available here in due course

11. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

12. Kings College, Cambridge have released a webcast of an outstanding 1967 recording of Fauré's Requiem, recorded by Sir David Willcocks, who passed away on 17 September, available here:

13. Archived Choral services over the Summer from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

Please pray for all touched by the Rugby World Cup and for the persecuted church particularly in Syria and Iraq, Egypt and Laos; and there is a prayer request from the Diocese of South Carolina in appeal court this coming week.

14. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayer resources for the Rugby World Cup
Egypt: Christian soldier killed after death threats
Laos: Pastor stabbed to death after refusing to stop preaching - Release International
Two Christians arrested for ‘spreading the faith’ - Release International
South Carolina: Prayer requests

15. Sunday Programme with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought
16. Rugby World Cup: For Fiji, God is the ultimate motivation Christian Today
Pope of the masses: is Francis really the people’s champion? - Rowan Williams - New Statesman
Through African Eyes: Resisting America's cultural imperialism - John A. Azumah - First Things
Giving Your Pastor Feedback After a Sermon... - Geoffrey Kirkland

17. Magnificent Murals: Sir James Thornhill & St Paul's Cathedral

18. Arthur Somervell: O Saviour of the World - Somerville Choir

19. Come to the Waters - New Wine Worship

God bless you

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Apparently Anglicans have not only lost the plot, we've lost God too

Sharp, pointy, provocative article in the Guardian by Deborah Orr. Not sure that I understand all of what she says. Contradictory in places? But here are some pointy bits:

A. "The Anglican church has always been a political organisation first and a spiritual one second. (Its worldwide communion, of course, is a consequence of nothing more spiritual than colonialism.) It’s no different to any other organised religion, whose earthly purpose is always the downward control of human attitudes and behaviour. Handily, if there’s a possibility that people can’t see any logic in the rules their leaders propound, religious organisations can simply shrug their shoulders and say that it’s what God wants."

B. "[++Welby's] admitting that it’s become impossible for Anglicans to agree on what God wants, but that it’s also important for Anglicans to carry on squabbling about it. The trouble is that this is as liberal as religion can get. It’s precisely because the Anglican church has lost its ability to be authoritarian (since this would have thrown it out of step with the liberal democracy it wants to remain an established part of in Britain) that Anglican conservatives are so furious."

C. "Religious conservatives are in the game precisely because they want certainty. They don’t want to sit around discussing the meaning of life, pondering what a good life might look like and considering what humans can do to foster their own progress. They want such matters to be off the table, because nothing should be allowed to disturb their delusion that they’ve got it all right and everyone who disagrees with them has got it all wrong.

Ironically, the great attraction of such a position is that once you assume it, you can justify the most awful behaviour because you believe your rectitude is beyond question, whatever vile things you’re actually doing. People are fond of saying that religion causes wars. It’s self-righteousness that causes wars, and religion is a marvellous tool for the self-righteous."

D. "And western Anglicans don’t want to look forensically at why religion isn’t working any more, any more than mainstream politicians want to look at why politics isn’t working any more."

E. "The trouble, of course, is that once you’ve won the liberal argument and everyone has agreed that people should be allowed to be who they are as long as they aren’t hurting others, then God is neither here nor there, let alone everywhere. And that’s the basic problem the Anglican communion faces.

If Lambeth Palace ever works out how to unite its worldwide communion in liberal harmony, then there will be no more need for God, or politics."

I think we have got the point, Deborah, thanks. Something along the lines of the more liberal the Anglican church(es)/Communion become the less use it has for God yet, conversely, where conservative Anglicanism dominates churches it is likely to result in a self-righteousness which leads to war. Hmm. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Now there is a point here. There is a form of liberal Christianity - not unknown to Anglicans - which is so doctrinally weak and pathetic that it begs the question why anyone would bother with it. There is also a form of conservative Christianity - not unknown to Anglicans - which is so doctrinally strong and lacking in human empathy that it scares others with its innate and imperturbable confidence, a confidence which if not self-righteousness, looks awfully close to it.

But, in the end, Deborah Orr's analysis leads to a 'straw man' argument. Well, two really. Actual Anglican liberal and conservative approaches are a bit different to her two straw men. Many Anglicans sympathetic to blessing same sex partnerships are conservative on doctrine. Many Anglicans unsympathetic to the possibility of such blessings are liberal on practice (e.g. loosely following the authorised services of the church). I have met some pretty conservative Anglicans in my time. I wouldn't describe them as self-righteous, let alone aggressively militaristic. I have met some pretty liberal Anglicans in my time, most of whom articulate belief in God which is distinct from atheism and agnosticism.

The ABC's challenge, I suggest, in regard to Anglican churches occupying separate bedrooms rather than pretending to be married in one Communion, is that if we remain in the same house we might converse with each other. Where Deborah Orr gets the idea that there is going to be shouting, I do not know.

Friday, September 18, 2015

GAFCON Primates Going to Miss the Bus?

Unfortunately the GAFCON Primates' response to ++Welbys' Communion to Federation initiative - see below - does not, on the face of it, look promising:

"It is on this basis that the GAFCON Primates will prayerfully consider their response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter. They recognize that the crisis in the Communion is not primarily a problem of relationships and cultural context, but of false teaching which continues without repentance or discipline.
Consistent with this position, they have previously advised the Archbishop of Canterbury that they would not attend any meeting at which The Episcopal Church of the United States or the Anglican Church of Canada were represented, nor would they attend any meeting from which the Anglican Church in North America was excluded.
It is therefore of some encouragement that the Archbishop of Canterbury has opened the door of this meeting to the Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Foley Beach. He has already been recognized as a fellow primate of the Anglican Communion by Primates representing GAFCON and the Anglican Global South at his installation in Atlanta last October and he is a full member of the GAFCON Primates Council."

On the other hand, they will 'consider'. And you can bet that the ABC has previously been in contact so he probably already knows whether they are coming or not.

PS Andrew Brown gives a racing commentary on the matter along with a gallop through the history of the AC.

Just In Time: ABC Changes Communion to Federation

The Anglican Covenant is completely dead now. It also looks very much like the Anglican Communion is too.

The Covenant is dead because that is a proposal to keep the Communion alive but what is in the news today is the end of the Anglican Communion and the beginning of the Anglican Federation (for want, at this stage, of a better name).

++Justin is to be given full marks for facing the facts of the lack of life in the Communion. The name means that Anglicans share communion together, especially the Instruments of Communion, including the Primates and the Bishops. But that communion has been impaired for sometime, with bishops not turning up for the 2008 Lambeth Conference and Primates refusing to commune with each other. So it has been about time that some responsible Anglican leader moved to pronounce the last rites as well as chart out a possible new style relationship.

I very much hope that the ABC will have the courage to come up with a new name for whatever emerges so that we Anglicans can be honest about federating when we won't be communioning.

The story today is that ++Justin is inviting the Primates to meet together in January 2016. It will be for 'prayer' (no mention of the eucharist). It will include reference to 1998 Lambeth and the statement is couched in conservative language.

Clearly ++Justin has been on the phone or personally visited each Primate and asked, 'What will it take to get you in the same room as everyone else?'

Equally clearly, some Primates have said to the ABC, 'Invite ++Foley Beach and we will come.' So the invitation to ++Foley Beach, Archbishop of the alternative Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to be in attendance is the surest sign that ++Justin has worked overtime to get the best possible attendance. You can bet he consulted with ++Curry, incoming TEC PB, about this and the PB must have said, 'OK. If that is what it takes!'

Read the comments to the link above - Thinking Anglicans - and you will find some commenters commenting as though this is just a bit of thinking by ++Justin which he hopes will work and the commenters know better than him. Read my lips, this is a tightly scripted scenario with careful negotiations leading to a meeting that will work. Not a meeting that will not work.

Before you comment here I invite you to consider whether your comment understands that on this occasion the ABC is entitled to do what it takes to get as many Primates in the one room as possible, even if it doesn't fit with your theory of how pure Anglicanism should work!

What is emerging in considered comments by pundits is that on the table is a move away from pretence to being a Communion defined* by Instruments of Communion (who, keep remembering, are not currently united) towards a something which sounds very much like a Federation which will be minimally defined. The minimum definition might simply be 'So you will relate to the ABC even if you won't relate to the Anglican Church of X - fine, you're in.'

Welcome ACNA. You're in the Federation. By the way, so is TEC and ACofC!

PS: On the possibility that this is indeed a Justinian stroke of genius, read here.

*Acknowledging a comment below, 'defined' raises questions as to who is defining in this way? Our church (ACANZP) does not formally define the Anglican Communion according to the Instruments of Communion. So here I am thinking of 'defined' in the sense of asking the question so when does the Anglican Communion meet as a fellowship? The answer has become - until recently - when its bishops meet, when its primates meet, when the ACC meets. Those meetings have become broken (with the possible exception of the ACC) and the fellowship (i.e. communion) impaired. Functionally, because of the lack of full eucharistic meeting of the bishops and primates, the Communion has ceased to be a communion.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What do Pope Francis, John Key, Tony Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump have in common?

On the face of it, this particular gang of leaders does not have much in common - depending which way you cut the dice it is a list of four conservatives and one socialist, or two socialists and three conservatives or four non-Americans and one American. Etc.

But dig deeper and the list of people in the subject line above have this in common: they have each come face to face with popular sentiment, with the will of the people. In poor old Tony Abbott's case that will - reflected in opinion poll after opinion poll - has led to his downfall. He just could not cut it in the connection with the people department.

Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump have recently been connecting very well in the popular sentiment front. Despite wildly differing political and economic philosophies, political commentators say both are liked because they actually tell the truth, and for a certain block of people that truth is what they want to hear. (Neither is likely to win an election anytime soon, but that, for now, is another story).

John Key understands the will of the people and the importance of popular sentiment. That has led to three elections in a row and to continuing high poll ratings as preferred Prime Minister of NZ (which he actually is, whatever those polls say!) It is also leading him these days to say one thing one day and the reverse the next when he realises that he might be losing his touch with the people.

Which brings us to Pope Francis. Whatever is going on in the Vatican on the 'family' (i.e. divorce, remarriage, annulment, the sacraments, blessing of same sex relationships) I suggest he is trying to do as much as he can (which in fact is relatively little) to fit the church to the people rather than expect the people to fit into the church.

Which in turn brings me to our church, ACANZP, and its moves re Motion 30. Taonga publishes an extraordinary response from our General Secretary to the decision of the Christchurch synod to ask the GS to move more slowly on Motion 30. Either the General Secretary, Michael Hughes or the Christchurch Synod is in touch with popular sentiment in our church. Which will it be?

While on the matter, my colleague and friend, Les Brighton has written a stirring article on Motion 30.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

[BUMPED] If it weren't so serious, I could laugh till I cried [UPDATED]

Latest: If it weren't so serious, I could laugh till I cried to find that Australia has just changed its Prime Minister, from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull.

Was Tony ill? No. Had he completely failed? No. Is the slightly ailing Australian economy the victim of mismanagement? No (its the victim of receding fortunes in China). Has Malcolm Turnbull a successful track record as leader of the Liberal Party? No. Has any previous attempt to change PMs mid term through internal party coup saved the party at the next election? Not that I am aware of, and certainly not recently.

A recent sequence of leadership of the Australian Labour Party was: Rudd - Gillard - Rudd. (They are now led, for the time being, by Bill Shorten)

The current sequence of Liberal Party leadership is: Turnbull - Abbott - Turnbull. Oh, dear!

Original: So UK Labour have elected Jeremy Corbyn to be their leader. If this were a joke it would be an excellent one and I could laugh till I cried. But it is not. [Update: see further below re some interesting links].

Today I heard about a government sponsored sermon urging women to cover up their aurat (let's just say, that is knees to neck, at least, if not ankles to head) - so far so ordinary for many Muslim women - and gave as an illustration of why this should be so,

"Let us think for a while, what would happen to an uncovered spread of food? Surely the spread would be covered with flies, and would no longer be seen as desirable by those who had coveted it before."

Likening women showing some of their natural bodies to uncovered food attracting flies. We could laugh at the absurdity of such a denigrative male put down. But this is serious, sincere sermonising. Anger and despair more likely that laughing at the absurdity of it.

A commenter here puts us in touch with Rorate Coeli's reaction to the Pope's recent motu proprio which makes obtaining an annulment easier for Catholics. Let's just say that the reaction amounts to less than an endorsement of the motu proprio let alone of the Pope (for supporting evidence of this deduction, read other articles on the site).

Now I am all for theological argument and such, cf. the existence of this blog. But some arguments are better than others because they accord with the spirit of Jesus' own theologising. Generally, theological arguments for mercy rather than law are in such accordance. So reading lines like this, written, I surmise, with a straight face and a steady pen, I could laugh until I cried. Except ...
'The principle of the double-sentence in conformity [i.e. double confirmation] was consecrated by the 1917 Code of Canon Law and received into the codification promulgated by John Paul II on January 25, 1983. ... In the canonical process, what has to be defended first of all is the supreme interest of the Divine institution which marriage is. ... In Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio this view has been overturned. The interest of the spouses has primacy over that of marriage. It is the document itself that affirms this, by summarizing the fundamental criteria of the reform in these points: the abolition of the double-sentence in conformity, substituted by only one sentence in favor of the enforceability of the annulment ... The combination between Canon 1683 and article 14 on the procedural rules in this respect has a shocking implication. Upon the decisions there will inevitably weigh considerations of a sociological nature: the divorced and remarried will have, for reasons of ‘mercy’, preferential treatment. “The Church of Mercy – notes Giuliano Ferrara – “has started its race” (“Il Foglio” September 9, 2015). It is not racing along an administrative road, but a “juridical one” where there is very little left that remains juridical.'
Was marriage made for men and women or men and women for marriage? (I know, you have heard Someone say something similar, so it's not very original of me to pose that question). Rorate Caeli would appear to be on the side of 'law' versus 'mercy'. Indeed it keeps invoking church law against the notion that the 'church of mercy' might exist and make decisions according to mercy.

Oh, dear Lord ... and thank you that Francis is your representative in Rome!

The greatest challenge for all churches in the 21st century is to steadfastly proclaim the gospel of mercy and to constantly pray to merciful Jesus for guidance as to what that means. Only in this way will we maintain our distinctive message in the face of competing messages about who God is and what God wants of us.

We might even be merciful to those who make bad jokes!

Update: in support of a comment below about Corbynistas in the CofE, a correspondent has supplied the following:

See also links in Sizer's Wikipedia entry

There was quite a heavy Israeli campaign against Corbyn's election, quite apart from his Iran/Hezbollah associations - Google for links.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Spiritual and Sacred Links - Monday 14 September 2015

Supplied by a UK colleague:

#1 Bishop Rennis Ponniah on how to grow in the Christian life and #3 three talks on aspects of marriage; #2. Simon Manchester on the searching questions Jesus asks us and how they lead to growth. #9 there is an early report that the kidnapped Nigerian Anglican bishop of Gwagwalada has been released, but it is a sole report at the moment.  Please pray for him, and for others.

Prayers for you for the coming week.

1. Filled with the fullness of God - Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrews Singapore Audio [Ephesians 3:14-21]

2. Questions in the storm - Simon Manchester - Moore Audio [[Mark 4:35-41] - outstanding

3. Ruth: Lessons for Marriage, Love & Sex - 3 talks from Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrews Singapore Audio [Ruth 1-4]

4. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

5. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

6. The bells of  Durham Cathedral - BBC Radio 4

7. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

8. Archived Choral services over the Summer from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

We give thanks this week for HM the Queen.  Please pray for the peace and safety of Nigeria.  On Friday there was one report of the release of Bishop Moses Bukpe-Tabwaye of Gwagwalada shortly after his car had been found - pray it is confirmed; there was also good news from Ethiopia and Sudan in court cases against Christians, but continued challenges in Syria, Iraq, India and Turkey; and please also pray for the Diocese of South Carolina.

9. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayer for the Queen - CofE
Nigeria: Police Say Kidnapped Bishop Moses Tabwaye Has Been Released - Channels TV Lagos
Ethiopia: Ethiopian Christians cleared of holding ‘illegal meetings’ - WWM
Sudan: Church wins legal battle over property - CSW
India: Sixth Indian state seeks to adopt 'Anti-Conversion Law' - WWM
Turkey: Greek Orthodox patriarch urges Turkey to learn from past ethnic tensions - Sunday's Zaman
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

10. Sunday Programme with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought [and the aftermath of the Assisted Dying Bill]
11. Evangelism: The Simplicity of Changing the World - Peter Bolt
Assisted Dying Bill defeated by substantial majority - David Pocklington
Assisted Suicide – some reflections from recent history - Stephen Trott
Dignity in Dying and the callous indignity of their spin - Cranmer
Religion and law round-up – 13th September - Frank Cranmer
A city standing on a hill - Ellie Hughes

12. Sam's story - Alpha

13. Engage 2015 with the Rugby World Cup

14. Jerusalem - BBC Proms
More from the last night of the Proms

God bless you

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Is the world spinning faster than usual on its tilted axis?

Difficult to keep up these days with events.

In NZ we have had a No to increasing our refugee quote followed by a Yes to a limited period but sizeable in numbers increase. The churches are promising to assist.

Of course in Europe there are tens of thousands streaming in, quota or no quota, somehow they are going to be housed in Germany ... France ... Britain ... Austria (the dots representing the momentary pause as countries chime in with promises to take amazing numbers of refugees. And even, I see on the news, Iceland. Dare we ask how many of the young men pouring across Europe from Syria wish to end up in Iceland? (That is nothing against Iceland per se, but it is an island and Down Under we live in islands and sometimes they are a little isolated ...!)

But my eyes were taken a day or so ago by another story in which the world seems to spin faster than we are used to, H/T to KiwiAnglo. According to one of the articles linked to by Ron Smith, Pope Francis has been up to his new but increasingly familiar trick of doing the unexpected. He has met with Bishop Jacques Gaillot, once out of favour as a more or less exiled, wandering bishop now possibly drawn in from the cold to the warm fires of Francis' compassionate heart for humanity.

In this article, Gaillot gets to talk with Francis at length and the matters they traverse are more, shall we say, on the Samaritan side of things than on the priest and the Levite side.

"Now, in yet another remarkable turn of events under the current pontificate, Pope Francis on Tuesday (Sept. 1) met privately with Gaillot at his Vatican residence.“I don’t want to ask anything of you, I told the pope, but a whole people of the poor are happy that you are receiving me, and feel acknowledged too,” Gaillot told the news service Agence France-Presse.“I spoke to him about … the sick, the divorced, gay people. These people are counting on you,” Gaillot told AFP.Gaillot, who at 79 is just a year older than the pope, said he told Francis how he had recently blessed a divorced couple as well as a homosexual couple.”I am in civil cloth(ing) and I just bless them. This is not a marriage, it is a blessing,” Gaillot said he told the pope, according to another French media report (translated by New Ways, a ministry of LGBT Catholics). “We have the right to give the blessing of God, after all we also bless houses!”“The pope listened,” Gaillot said, “he seemed open to all that. At that particular moment, he specifically said that to bless people also involves to speak well of God to those people.”Gaillot said Francis told him to “continue, what you do (for the downtrodden) is good.”Francis certainly seemed to understand the import of this meeting."

Of course the Vatican can say that it was (a) a private meeting, and (b) what is being reported is Gaillot's version of the conversation. Indeed if we read Gaillot carefully in this extract, he mostly reports what he said to the Pope and not what the Pope said. When he quotes the Pope on blessing of same sex couples the Pope says that to bless people also involves to speak well of God to them. But that is not quite the same thing as the Pope saying what Gaillot is doing is all OK by the Catechism and Canon Law. It is a theological truism that when we bless then we also speak well about God to those whom we bless.

Nevertheless this is a remarkable conversation because it happened. No Pope needs to speak to out of favour clerics. They can remain in their home country. Rome is expensive to travel to, etc. And it doesn't sound as though the Pope protested when Gaillot told him about whom he was blessing.

As we Down Under, in the Anglican stable, tune in to these conversations, there is food for thought, n'est ce pas?

Can we distinguish blessing of any couple seeking to live faithfully, to each other and to God, from marriage between a man and a woman? Will we be a church which offers discretion to clerics to bless as Gaillot has done?

As I reflect on our debate on Motion 30 at our synod a couple of days ago, posted on here, I discern (more intuitively than anything because there were not many speeches made) that we might be a church which in large part would settle for the ability for clergy to have that discretion.

But would those who are opposed to blessings (let alone same sex marriage) see their way to being part of a church which grants permission to exercise such discretion while retaining (as Motion 30 already says) the traditional doctrine of marriage?

That is the question of our day (I suggest, as I ruminate, but don't ask me next week as I may be intuiting differently).

I am not talking about compromise so much as making space for differently held views. A space which already exists on other matters on which we disagree. My sense after the synod is that many want that space to be available on this matter even if there are not many who take up any opportunity to exercise discretion.

The thing about Francis is that he seems to be pushing out the 'space' in the Roman sphere. Making more room for more people, including the divorced (noting the major conference on the family coming up very soon) and, it seems, subtly enlarging space for those identifying as gay.

As the world spins faster, it can also seem that its axis is tilting more than usual!

Update: read about Francis' motu proprio on speedier annulments in a Damian Thompson column here. Why do the psychologically immature get a free pass here?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Spiritual and Sacred Links for Monday 7 September 2015

Supplied by a UK colleague:

#1 Hugh Palmer on the challenge of Amos for our day; #2 and 3 Matthew Rusch and Kendall Harmon on what we let go in and out; and there are plenty of online services, resources and calls for prayer and encouragement.

Prayers for you for the coming week.

1. I will restore the ruins [Amos 9] - Hugh Palmer - All Souls Langham Place Audio

2. The Heart of the Matter (Mark 7:1-23) - Matthew Rusch - St Helena's Beaufort Audio

3. What Is a Christian perspective on sin and Freedom? (Mark 7) - Kendall Harmon - Christ St Paul's Audio

4. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

5. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

6. The bells of  St Lawrence, Alton in Hampshire - BBC Radio 4

7. Choral Evensong from St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh [CoI] with the 2015 Charles Wood Summer School - BBC Radio 3

8 . Sunday Worship from Albany Road Baptist Church, Cardiff - BBC Radio 4

9. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

10. Archived Choral services over the Summer from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

Please pray for the peace and safety of Nigeria and for the safe release of Bishop Moses Bukpe-Tabwaye of Gwagwalada near Abuja who was kidnapped and held for ransom on Thursday; for the persecuted church particularly in Syria, Iraq and Turkey; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

11. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Syria and Iraq region: The Christians of al- Qaryatain City have to make a choice whether to pay “Jizya” or enter to Islam - Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
Sudan: Four years of bombings in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains - WWM
Nigeria: Ransom demand received for kidnapped bishop - Anglican Ink
Primate urges Christians to be vigilant as kidnappers demand N40m ransom on Rev. Tabuwaye
Protest in Jos calling for end to Fulani killings - CSW
Threat to Christians extends to the South - Release International
Turkey: Death threats target Turkey's Protestants - WWM
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

12. Sunday Programme with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought
13. Churches are best social melting pots in modern Britain - John Bingham
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob spotted at Calais - David Keen
Pre-Raphaelite Art in Churches - Church Days
Churches as Charities: Some basics - Frank Cranmer
Discovering the Bible in a digital world - Mark Green - CEN

14. The Word One to One - Introduced by Rico Tice
Website where material may be bought or downloaded for free

15. Ave Maria (Pietro Mascagni) - Elīna Garanča - Deutsche Grammophon

16. Great is your faithfulness - Martin Smith

17. Once in a Blue Moon - Luke Taylor Vimeo

God bless you

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Motion 30 and the Diocese of Christchurch

Assiduous readers here will recall various posts about Motion 30 - our 2014 General Synod motion concerning the possibility of blessing of same sex partnerships while holding our whole church together by also upholding traditional marriage. Recently I have mentioned some workshops held around the Diocese on Motion 30 and I think I have mentioned the latest news from the Way Forward group set up by Motion 30, that no report and recommendations would be forthcoming this year.

With the next General Synod being May next year, 2016, that has been of concern in our church. At our present Diocese of Christchurch synod we had a motion on the books requesting  General Synod commission a four year period of study prior to making any further decisions.

That motion was carefully debated yesterday and became, via amendment, the following resolution:

"Motion 30: A Time of Education, Discussion and Discernment

That this Diocese requests General Synod to receive (and table) the report from the Motion 30 Way Forward Group and not adopt any recommendations without first referring the report to the Synods, Hui Amorangi & Talanoa of this Church for discussion, and commends to General Synod that it resources a significant period of education, discussion, and discernment throughout this Church."

(For readers unfamiliar with a couple of terms, 'Hui Amorangi' are Maori episcopal unit synods and 'Talanoa' refers to a way of advancing conversation in the Diocese of Polynesia via small discussion groups).

I am personally in agreement with this resolution. I make no further comment here, at least for now. There are things to be done before leaving for today at Synod #chchsynod15 or #chchsynod2015.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Great news from Christchurch [Updated Links]

Our Synod began tonight with our service which ended with a couple of cathedral announcements pronounced ex cathedra (i.e. by Bishop Victoria herself).

One we have a new Dean, Lawrence Kimberley. Very pleasing. Read about it here in Taonga.

Two we have a breakthrough re the future of the cathedral building in the Square. Read about it here in Taonga.

Or read about it in secular-media-mode here!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Are some sins forgivable this year and not next year? [UPDATED]

UPDATE: See bottom of post

ORIGINAL: Even my largely sympathetic approach to matters Roman flinched when I saw this headline via Twitter last night:
"Pope to allow all priests to forgive abortion during Holy Year"
A Protestant reading of the headline suggests that far from being the benign "I just sign off on what the church as a whole agrees to" figure at the top of one particular model of ecclesial hierarchy, the Pope, even this Pope, has extraordinary powers.

Worse, the powers in this case decide not so much which sins are forgivable and which are not, but whether sins will be forgiven this calendar year but not next year. A sin is a sin, is it not? And if it is not the unforgivable sin then it is always forgivable, is it not? God's eternal grace applies in 1515 as much as in 2015 ...

Of course, another part of the Protestant scriptural mind says not to judge lest you be judged, so as someone who likes people to read my posts and not just my headlines, I read the Reuters article.

There I found things were not quite as I had thought. Not great, but there is a redemptive quality (if I may use such a notion in this context) in this particular Pope acting in this particular way.

Here is the opening part of the report:

"Pope Francis will give all priests discretion during the Roman Catholic Church's upcoming Holy Year to formally forgive women who have had abortions, in the Argentine pontiff's latest move towards a more open and inclusive church.
In Church teaching, abortion is such a grave sin that those who procure or perform it incur an automatic excommunication, which can only be lifted by designated church officials.However, from Dec. 8 [2015] to Nov. 26 [2016], during an extraordinary Holy Year or "Jubilee" on the theme of mercy, all priests will be able to do so if the women repent "with a contrite heart", the pope said in a letter published by the Vatican on Tuesday.Francis described the "existential and moral ordeal" faced by women who have terminated pregnancies and said he had "met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision".

The pope's letter did not mention those who perform abortions."
So the Pope's power/authority is not being used to forgive sins according to the calendar but to widen the means by which assurance of forgiveness may be received, in the context of a sin which incurs 'automatic excommunication.' That power/authority is also being exercised relative to an church-decided rule rather than to a God-revealed rule about excommunication. A Protestant can be empathetic to these things -we have a few rules of our own. Remember the time when use of any Bible except the KJV incurred automatic excommunication ... Then there were the churches that would expel you if you spoke in tongues ... :)

The article goes on to report a helpful explanation:

"Although he has shown no intention of retracting the Church's opposition to abortion, he has alarmed conservatives by taking a less forceful tone than his predecessors.
"This is by no means an attempt to minimize the gravity of this sin, but to widen the possibility of showing mercy," Vatican chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters."

Ah, so here we are in common territory as we Christians around the globe explore all matters of human sexuality in the 21st century: how to be faithful to 'the gravity of sin' while widening the possibility of 'showing mercy.'

Before we Protestants throw doctrinal stones across the Tiber (and, spoiler alert, if you read the whole article, there is talk of ... Indulgences!? ... Luther, stop rolling in your grave) we do well to pause. Log and speck. How are we doing at maintaining the gravity of sin while ever widening the possibilities of showing mercy?

And, I appreciate, whatever I think about the idea that only certain officials can offer forgiveness and remit automatic excommunication, that Rome takes seriously such a grave sin as taking human life. If only we Protestants treated sin as seriously!

Postscript: someone else is quoted in the article, responding from the liberal/progressive wing of American Catholicism and introduces a new phrase to theological discourse:

"This is a pope who is not stuck in the pelvic zone, and perhaps his message on how he thinks about abortion is more for his brother bishops than Catholics in the pew"

May all our theological ruminations on matters of human sexuality never get "stuck in the pelvic zone" :)

UPDATE: Somehow I am on some kind of circulation list for the NZ Catholic Church and I have just received this about our local Kiwi situation:

"Clarification for New Zealand Church

You will be aware of the news reports overnight of Pope Francis’ announcement that all priests will be allowed to absolve the sin of abortion during the forthcoming Year of Mercy.

To clarify the situation in here, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops many years ago delegated this responsibility (they are entitled to do so) to New Zealand Priests.

Bishops in other countries may have also taken the same step as well. However Pope Francis has announced that this is to be universal for the upcoming Year of Mercy. Here in New Zealand the current situation will continue after that.

Kind regards,

Simone Olsen
Communications Adviser
NZ Catholic Bishops
04 496 1725
021 611 052"

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It is not so much that statistics lie as that ...

... today's statistics need careful interpretation if we are to understand what tomorrow's statistics will reveal.

That all sounds mysterious. All is revealed by Ian Paul here.