Thursday, June 30, 2016

Will 21st century beat all institutions to a pulp?

Here is a very thoughtful piece on the current meltdown of the British Labour Party:

"On one side is the current leader and a small band of leftist diehards, backed by an energetic, well-drilled movement but devoid of any coherent project and out of touch with the voters who have just defied the party in their droves. 
On the other is a counter-revolution led by MPs who mostly failed to see this crisis coming, have very few worthwhile ideas themselves, and are a big part of the reason the Brexit revolt happened in the first place. As the activist Neal Lawson says, the choice is essentially between different captains of the Titanic, and therefore is no choice at all.
As with the centre-left parties across Europe in the same predicament, Labour is a 20th-century party adrift in a new reality. Its social foundations – the unions, heavy industry, the nonconformist church, a deference to the big state that has long evaporated – are either in deep retreat or have vanished completely. Its name embodies an attachment to the supposed glories of work that no longer chimes with insecure employment and insurgent automation." (From the Guardian)

Note what it says about the non-conformist roots of the Party. But I suggest, with a bit of imagination,  we can say a similar thing, as the whole piece says about the state of the once mighty and fearless British Labour Party, about the church-in-the-Western-world (outside of USA)-as-we-have-known-it-in-the-20th-century: we are adrift in a new reality. We are doing various things which have great potential to be described by future historians as similar to changing the captains on the Titanic in order to secure a new arrangement of the deck chairs on its observation deck!

Now, the one difference between the Western church and the British Labour Party is that God is committed to us but, spoiler alert, leftie readers may be offended, not to the BLP. So our question is not whether we will survive the 21st century, or even the next two decades. Our question is what new form, fit for purpose, the church is being metamorphosed into. And, are we discerning what God is up to, are we catching the wave of the Spirit hovering over the troubled waters of a chilly culture which keeps throwing up icebergs on which every human institution is foundering?

What do you think?


Andrei said...

Now, the one difference between the Western church...

It is interesting you indirectly differentiate between the Western Church and the Eastern

And I ask where is the Church leadership? (your Titanic analogy may be apt)

I went looking for News stories generated by New Zealand Bishops and could only find only one in recent times

It just reinforces your post -

Most Kiwis could not name their local Bishop and if they saw him walking down the street would not identify him as a Bishop I'd posit nor the clergy for the most part as clergy.

The last time the Bishops had a voice in public discourse was during the debate over that matter we are not discussing on this blog this month and instead of showing leadership and clarity the Anglicans at least waffled (is this too cruel? - if so I apologize)

The Bishops are the local leaders of the Church militant and as such should look and act that way and be public figures who command respect

Andrei said...

Now consider this - a two day old story. A memorial service for 32 miners killed in Northern Russia

The first part of the video is extracts from the panikhída (memorial service)
followed by the Patriarchs address - the gist of which is that this life is only temporary and whether we live for thirty years or eighty years that is nothing in the face of our eternal life, the life to come

And though we grieve now we will be reunited in eternity with our loved ones

Then he greets the mourners - a woman asks that a chapel be built where they can remember their dead but the mining company has thus far declined - he calls for the manager and tells him the chapel must be built, it is the companies debt to the miners that it be done and that the nation is watching

This is a very public demonstration of Faith and something entirely lacking in our world -can we learn from this?

hogsters said...

Hi Andrei,

Faith, or a church with teeth?


Andrei said...

"Faith, or a church with teeth?"

I'm unsure what you mean with that idiom Hogster

Today in this country the Christian Faith has been marginalized, its public expression limited to dwindling aging congregations gathering in decaying Gothic buildings on Sunday

And I am saying the leaders of the Church with a capital C need to come out in public and loudly express themselves in terms of creedal Christianity

The Nicene Creed should underlay their every public utterance and should be axiomatic in everything they do

It doesn't help when a Bishop in a radio interview expresses his uncertainty in the existence of God for example.

Of course the Church with a capital "C" is not just the priests and bishops and the labours of the Faithful go mostly unseen by all but God.

But the priests and bishops are the public face and the Bishops in particular must be public figures who use every moment to be a teaching moment and they must be firm and confident in their faith and their expression

Imagine what could have happened with the blasphemous billboards if the Bishop in full episcopal regalia had immediately marched down to the offending church armed with holy water and accompanied by men with buckets of paint and rollers and after offering up prayers of sanctification covered it over and defrocked the culprit - the haters of God might sneer but the Faithful would be energized and encouraged don't you think?

And the TV cameras would love it

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Andrei

I’m attracted to your ‘church militant’, at least emotionally. It does seem rather better than being ignored to irrelevance.

However, I suspect that both we and our Bishops will get the chance sooner rather than later to stand for ‘creedal’ Christianity as our culture progresses even further down the path of the sexual revolution.

I note today that Marlborough Girls High has agreed to allow their sole transgender student to ‘use the bathroom of their choice’. Now that the bathroom sacred space has been conquered in the name of equality and diversity, all that remains are the showers and the sports fields.

I’m looking forward to watching our more progressive Bishops publically defending the rights of female students not wishing to shower alongside a girl with a d**k.

Might we also expect to hear about the ‘joy’ of parents whose daughters came ‘second’ to the transgender athlete? They will be celebrating with all of the good sportsmanship (please excuse the gender bias in my text) the occasion demands.

But maybe, just maybe a tiny voice in the wilderness will cry out - ‘but wait, there are only two genders, male and female, that’s how God in his wisdom created us!’ And maybe this will resonate with parents who might otherwise be inclined to embrace the Education Department’s groupthink.

Just maybe Christians have something to say in such a cultural context?

We will get the opportunity soon enough. It is here now.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments here, robust and challenging!

I think, if I may speak up generally for our bishops: while we may wish this one and that one gave a "stronger lead", a reality in the current cultural state of Western society is that our bishops are largely going to be reflective of the state of the churches which have elected them ... and generally those churches feel beleaguered, in a minority position relative to the superior numbers of secularists (notably in the media) and unsure what is the best way to engage in public theology. Can we expect more of our bishops than we do of ourselves?

BrianR said...

Brendan - please amplify your comments about a bishop.
& Marlborough College.
Where are these stories referenced?
Thank you.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

Your question prompts a larger question, which is this: Is it reasonable to expect our Bishops to be no more than a product of popular culture or can we expect something more akin to the prescription for Elders and Bishops that we see outlined in the Biblical narrative?

If popular opinion as expressed by our culture is the bar that determines our expectations for Anglican Bishops, then it is set very low indeed.

As to your challenge ‘can we expect more of our Bishops than we do of ourselves’? The short answer is no. I have blogged on the topic of transgender highs school students prior to posting on your blog:

You might equally be surprised by my post suggesting that gay men might ironically be the ones that rise to the defense of western civilisation:

If God cannot rely upon Bishops to speak the truth in love, he will either rightly allow us to suffer the consequences of our apostasy, and/or raise up help from the most unexpected quarters.

Andrei said...

Can we expect more of our bishops than we do of ourselves?

Have you heard of Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens, Peter?

Or the new martyrs of Russia?

Food for thought? Perspective?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
Eastern Christianity is in a different situation to Western Christianity in certain respects and consequently I am not asking questions of either Eastern Christians or their bishops. But the Western world and its challenges, I think I know something about them, while also knowing there is much we do not seem to understand.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
Another way to put what I am trying to say, in the light of the two websites you link to, is that maybe some persecution would show true boldness and bravery on the part of Western Christians!

Andrei said...

No Peter - plenty of Western Christians have won the crown of martyrdom in the past 100 years.

José Sánchez del Río was fourteen when he was tortured to death to try and get him to renounce his Faith - this was in 1928 in Mexico

And all he would say as he died was "Viva Cristo Rey!"

Or Archbishop Óscar Romero y Galdámez murdered while saying Mass in San Salvadore in 1980

My point is that the Church (with a capital "C") in New Zealand is hiding - all but invisible

If I seek a quiet place to pray on a weekday can I easily find a Church with doors unlocked? And if I do will my prayers and quiet contemplation be disrupted by a busload of Japanese tourists?

Most people are not strong in the Faith but in times of trouble might turn to the Church and if they encounter an ear to listen and then to pray with them they may in time grow in the Faith

Here are two Bible verses you may care to contemplate

Matthew 16:24

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Matthew 5:15-16

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

BrianR said...

"Can we expect more of our bishops than we do of ourselves?"

Seriously? What does it mean to be a leader unless:

1. you have a good grasp of the truth and are able to articulate it?
2. you are setting a personal example of faith and living and expecting others to follow it?

Really, Peter, a quick perusal of the Pastoral Epistles on the qualifications of leaders would have answered these questions.
Quite simply, there are people in church leadership who shouldn't be there. It's not that they lack personal qualities - they are often kind, thoughtful and sensitive - but rather that they lack apostolic convictions about God, Christ and the Resurrection. Like one kindly man in leadership I know of, who really doesn't believe the Nicene Creed any more, though once he did passionately.

Anonymous said...

Peter, it seems that leaders in all spheres are becoming viewed as inadequate. There are plenty of Catholics looking forward to Francis's retirement. Nevertheless, we can expect more of bishops than ourselves. Those who claim apostolic succession cannot be doubting the creed. They need a new job.


Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Nick. Your pessimism is showing! I, personally, think Pope Francis is God's person for the Church at this time. Would he were the Archbishop of Canterbury. Then would our Gafcon Primates have something to moan about.

Anonymous said...

Fr Ron, I have no issues with the Pope, though I think he could usefully say less on aeroplanes. Although we should not tolerate heretics, we should not be too harsh on leaders with genuine doubts. I think western society has become so critical of everyone in leadership (in whatever sphere) that we are in danger of complete disintergration. Brexit and Trumpism are symptoms of a new universal contempt and it's ugly.


Brendan McNeill said...

Would that we had just one Bishop in New Zealand that would speak as clearly to our culture as Christian Author and Evangelist Ravi Zacharias speaks to his.

hogsters said...

Hi Andrei,

I probably was being a bit obscure or maybe I was having a bit of a dig at toothless church leaders.

A church that has faith will have teeth. By that I mean if we have the courage of our convictions, and such will be linked to our belief in the sovereignty of God, the Lordship of Christ, the authority of the scriptures etc etc, we will not be apologetic in the "I'm sorry for intruding or challenging", that sort of thing.

I think it was John Stott or J I Packer who said the greatest problem the church faces today is a loss of confidence in the gospel. (it may have been neither of those giants of the faith but it is true all the same)

We are called to apologetic in the sense of giving a reason for the faith we hold. I would suggest we are called to be non apologetic in the sense of living according to gospel mandates whatever challenge or offence that might give to those who want the world to run by a different set of rules.

So to go back to your illustration where the mining company were worried enough to comply with the dictate of the Patriarch. In NZ such a dictate from a bishop would probably be ignored. The difference is the standing the church has in the culture and the standing that the church has in the culture depends of whether it stands for something or nothing.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters,
Some recent comments are kind of making the point I am trying to hamfistedly make re leadership and expectations!

One the one hand, of course, we expect leaders to lead, to be that bit better at (e.g.) courage, vision, theological knowledge AND theological wisdom, than we are, all as per 1 Timothy 3 and other relevant passages of Scripture. I did not mean to say otherwise but accept I appeared to imply otherwise! On these grounds, indeed, we could expect a firmer line re (e.g) creedal belief and its public adherence by clergy licensed to the bishops.

On the other hand, our leaders are leaders of today's church in this (rather than that) place and culture, and they are not going to be super-heroes relative to the rest of us members of their churches. To the extent to which (e.g.) their churches are divided on human sexuality issues, church leaders (including the bishops of ACANZP) are likely to express views more in keeping with the mixed and mixed up views of their members than according to some (argued for) "standard" of belief at odds with the current situation.

(From that point of view, Pope Francis, as I best understand what he says on aeroplanes AND what is going on in your "typical" Western extended Catholic family re varieties of relational situations and statuses, is trying to bridge the gap between "theory" and "practice" of sexual, married and family relationships among his flock).

Andrei said...

On the other hand, our leaders are leaders of today's church in this (rather than that) place and culture, and they are not going to be super-heroes relative to the rest of us members of their churches. To the extent to which (e.g.) their churches are divided on human sexuality issues, church leaders (including the bishops of ACANZP) are likely to express views more in keeping with the mixed and mixed up views of their members than according to some (argued for) "standard" of belief at odds with the current situation.

Here we are on the cusp of WW3 and this endless discussion goes on and on and on "ad nauseam"

And people abandon the church in droves, I wonder why?

Father Ron Smith said...

Message from Mother Julian:

"All shall be well; all shall be well; all manner of things shall be well"

Message from the Bible:

"Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Trust in Me!" - Jesus

Father Ron Smith said...

Brendan, you may criticise the bishops of ACANZP, but did you not realise that when you left the leadership of your own small church group; the leaders of your new group might be just as ineffective? Of course, I don't believe our Bishops in ACANZP are as ineffective as you make out. Perhaps you could dicuss your problems with your own diocesan bishop.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Fr Ron

I don’t believe I have been overly critical of our Bishops. I ask no more of them than I do of myself and God knows my failings! There are times when I would like them to be more vocal, taking time to speak publically into our culture’s moral and spiritual vacuum with both truth and grace. However, I take Peter’s point that they are a ‘product’ of the Church that has elected them.

Besides, he has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, so that should be a comfort to all of us.

Stu said...

Hi Brendan,
you might be interested to know that Ravi Zacharius will be joining us in Dunedin early next year (Feb/ March)for some public meetings.

Brendan McNeill said...

Thanks Stu

Is he coming to Christchurch do you know? My son is a big fan, and I'd probably go along with him.


BrianR said...

Ravi Zacharias is a wonderful communicator, and the poetic-literary side to his addresses is a welcome complement to the more abstractly philosophical approach taken by William Lane Craig. Together, both men seek to engage the emotions and the intellect in the kind of apologetic that Pascal would heartily (!) approve of.
I've met Craig and watched both many times on youtube. What is interesting about Z's approach is that he consciously memorises significant passages or poetry or prose and can seamlessly blend them into his addresses with scarcely a glance at his smartphone. More speakers and apologists need to learn the simple (but time-demanding) discipline of memorisation; the rhetorical impact is worth it.

Stu said...

Sorry Brendan only in Dunedin,
26 Feb-2 March.