Friday, June 16, 2017

Benedict Option Wrong for Down Under?

In a week where days fly past and major issues in Kiwiland remain untouched herein, notably further developments re the Christchurch Cathedral and the imminent question of legalisation of euthanasia, the least I can do is point you to a superb and, for me, persuasive, argument from Michael Bird (Ridley College, Melbourne).

Against a background in Australia of increasing hostility towards Christianity, Michael Bird argues in a North American magazine, Christianity Today, that the Benedict Option being debated there - concerning engagement between Christianity and secular society - is not apt for the Down Under context.

NZ is not Australia. They are not as good as us at rugby (for instance!). So I am interested in readers' comments about the Benedict Option versus the Thessalonian Option for consideration in our Kiwi situation.


Brendan McNeill said...


I’m not sure how many of your readers are familiar with Rod Dreher over at or are familiar with his latest book The Benedict Option, but I image many are.

I have read the book recently and agree that it has much to say to us in the NZ context, particularly in the world of Anglicanism. Rod’s thesis is that we can no longer rely upon the culture to support the Christian narrative, or defend religious freedom. That it’s now time for Christians to ‘strengthen those things that remain’ and become intentional about building resilient faith communities that are (by definition) counter cultural.

However, it appears that a considerable proportion of the Anglican Church in NZ is heading in entirely the opposite direction. These Anglicans desire a church that better reflects prevailing cultural norms than one standing opposed to them.

We are not going to convince the ‘progressives’ that they are the new totalitarians, (the Thessalonian Strategy) when they already know we are the bigots. It’s pointless to try.

I’d say Rod’s book is a ‘must read’ for those who have not yet done so.

Michael Reddell said...

A somewhat related question is whether Tim Farron's conclusion - that is wasn't possible to be faithful Christian and a party leader - is also true in New Zealand.

Perhaps Bill English is a counter-example, but it is almost impossible to envisage someone like Farron being able to lead one of the parties of the left. I'm not convinced a younger Bill English could get promoted to a position from which he could lead National now.

Of course, Rod Dreher argues that it doesn't really matter, and the focus should go on Christian formation - as individuals and communities. I"m sympathetic but might commment again when I've read the Bird article.

Michael Reddell said...

Having read Bird, I'm not sure where he is really diverging from Dreher (whose book I haven't read, but whose blog I read daily). Rod doesn't suggest ignoring the public square, fighting to (eg) defend religious liberties where we can, and perhaps even managing the odd other stalling victory. But he counsels - as he has for years - that humanly speaking it is impossible to be hopeful of such a strategy succeeding in gaining much ground, or even holding it. And even if it could succeed, it would be pyrrhic victory if the Christian formation (individual and community) was so weak that all that was left was the descendants of the sort of moral therapeutic deism that too often substitutes for the gospel in all its richness and depth. As he highlights, even in the US context, the rate of loss of church-raised young people is already large, as it has been here for decades.

For all that, I'm not sure about the NZ situation, in terms of the threats to the legitimacy of orthodox Christians in the public square. As noted above, a fairly traditional Catholic is Prime Minister. And we haven't yet had the extreme cases seen in Australia (per Bird) or in the US - CEOs ousted for once opposing same-sex "marriage", or florists driven through the courts for refusing to supply such a "wedding". I'm not really sure why it hasn't happened here yet. Is it perhaps in part because the church is already so much more enfeebled here? But I suspect it is only a matter of time, and that resistance will ultimately - in human terms - fail. Which leaves me with Dreher's challenge to the church to focus on being the church - the best witness, and the best and only safeguard of a body always just one generation from extinction.

Peter Carrell said...

There could be room for both options, Michael!

It is both an interesting and an intriguing question why NZ is (so far) a bit different to Australia re threats to legitimacy of orthodox Christians in the public square.

It could be that the church is more enfeebled here. But might it be that the church has quiet residual strength (think full Catholic parish churches, still strong church going among Pasefika communities, role of churches in Maori communities (and importance politicians place on ties with Ratana) as well as quietly continuing links between church leaders and government?

Or ...?

Anonymous said...

The Anabaptists got this right: those in Christ may not identify his kingdom with the social order of any local time and place. Nevertheless, a Christian is as apt as any other individual to imagine that, with his own arrival, the world was at last completed, and that all that has changed since that blessed hour has been a steady declension from perfection. A person with a conservative temperament can be an especially faithful and fruitful Christian, of course, but Christianity itself cannot be so purely conservative as to adopt the whole society of any time with all of its flaws. That is, the Church cannot be permanently conservative because, as T.S. Eliot famously observed, conservatives too often want to conserve the wrong things.

Along with many grains of truth, Dreher's Benedict Option, Bird's Thessalonians Option, Wedgewood's Diognetus Option, etc all have this boulder of error: in longing for the recent past to which they compare the godless present, they implicitly celebrate its cruel discrimination. And that is what progressives rightly find contemptible. In most places that are obsessed with That still unmentionable Topic, anti-Christian rage is driven, not by some atheological objection to the gospel (about which secularists usually know nothing), but by their disgust at an uncritical stuckism that celebrates harsh laws that marginalised homosexuals in civil society with life consequences that can only have angered God. And indeed, much idealising kitsch has disabled Christian churches and institutions from the gospel tasks of empathising with and helping compassionately those citizens bullied in God's Name.

The aforementioned Anabaptists would, however, affirm the note of independence common to all of the several Options. If they are to bear an authentic witness from the Kingdom, faithful Christians must indeed do their own cultural work and be wary of the alluring captivity of power. Anabaptists would quarrel only with the notion that this independence suddenly became necessary when Western states stopped marginalising their homosexual citizens so that they could inherit property, get and keep employment, be visited on their deathbeds, etc. To the contrary, the states of Christian societies have been doing God-angering things for millennia, and for just as long the Holy Spirit has been using souls and movements to separate the gospel from its simulacrum.

Might we think of this time as one of divine lustration for the sake of a purer gospel witness? Where churches plainly dissociate the gospel from past cruelty, they will prosper as the Holy Spirit leads them. The history of ancient Israel suggests, however, that where they instead identify themselves with such evil, however unintentionally, the Holy Spirit may use whatever forces are available to silence this confusion for the sake of the Great Commission.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Has anybody read Russell's Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity? The thesis, if true, is important to matters discussed here from time to time.

A friendly reviewer summarises the book thus: "The early Christianity that the Germans encountered [in missionaries from Mediterranean lands] contained a good many universalist tendencies, adapted and reinforced by the disintegrating social fabric and deracinated peoples of the late empire. But thanks to Germanization, those elements were soon suppressed or muted and what we know as the historical Christianity of the medieval era offered a religion, ethic, and world-view that supported what we today know as 'conservative values'—social hierarchy, loyalty to tribe and place (blood and soil), world-acceptance rather than world-rejection, and an ethic that values heroism and military sacrifice. In being 'Germanized,' Christianity was essentially reinvented... Christianity is both the grandmother of Bolshevism (in its early universalist, non-Western form) and a pillar of social stabilization and order (through the values and world-view imported into it through contact with the ancient barbarians). Throughout most of its history, the latter has prevailed, but today, as Mr. Russell argues in the last pages of his work, the enemies of the European (Germanic) heritage—what he calls 'the Euro-Christian religiocultural fusion'—have begun to triumph within Christian ranks."

A reviewer panned the book in American Historical Quarterly for being more like historical theology than a soberly positivistic history of religion. Most commentators seem unconcerned about that.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

I am not sure, Peter, that Michael Bird has read Rod Dreher quite correctly. In fact, some of his Thessalonian suggestions echo the kind of thing Rod himself has said.

Perhaps it's in the 'monastic' metaphor tripping him up (issues of Christian sub-culture). Perhaps it's in the way that Rod himself seeks to engage with and witness before culture, while stridently seeking also to concretely form Christians in their own counter-culture.

All in all, I think Michael Bird is simply passing Rod Dreher like a ship in the night. Which is a pity. For I think we must learn in New Zealand from what Rod is seeking to warn us about, and to prepare us for, and furthermore seeking to establish as an antidote. Otherwise, the Church here will surely be as rammed and damaged as the author of The Great Gatsby (Mk 13:14) and its characters play while Rome burns.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Bowman,for this piece of unadulterated common sense:

"Might we think of this time as one of divine lustration for the sake of a purer gospel witness? Where churches plainly dissociate the gospel from past cruelty, they will prosper as the Holy Spirit leads them. The history of ancient Israel suggests, however, that where they instead identify themselves with such evil, however unintentionally, the Holy Spirit may use whatever forces are available to silence this confusion for the sake of the Great Commission."

It must be very hard, though, for people whose spiritual insight is confined to the past - together with its inherent insensitivities and injustice - to accept that the Holy Spirit is continuing, in our own day and age, to be doing "A New Thing"; with the righting of historic prejudices which have prevented the harvesting of souls of ALL people, sinners all,for Christ!

Greetings from St.Mary's, Fetcham. We enjoyed a good old Evangelical sermon and Eucharist today, in the setting of a liturgically-ordered Anglo-Catholic parish church. together with our local relatives. God is alive and well, here

Bryden Black said...

"Separating the Gospel from its simulacra." Bowman

Always a worthy necessity, for both Israel and Church. The difficulty of course is in identifying which is which. Israel was endowed with the Torah. Yet also plagued with "forgetfulness" (see esp Deut etc), and so listened to the Baalim often. The Church, when given BOTH Holy Spirit AND canonical OT AND NT, should by these twin means navigate between the various Siren voices which claim to steer one away from the rocks yet precisely impale one onto them.

And this is where, once again, many of us Ron must demur from your "novelties" as being the voice of the Holy Spirit and not an echo of the current Zeitgeist. For all but the most gymnastic of exegetes say of our current pansexualism that it is a serious mistake, a failure to honour the divine Image in which humanity is made.

This is not simply to attempt to conserve a tradition out of step with the winds of the Spirit. Rather, it is precisely to remember the Rock from whom we have been hewn. True; this present aeon also throws up fallen forms of the Image. And true again; some (many?) have not remembered their own need of mercy to cover their own fallenness, as they mock these particular forms. Yet that very form of forgetfulness should not sanction another. That merely compounds the choppiness of the waters for all of us to navigate hereafter, as we try to put our backs into whatever oar we hold and seek to head to safe Harbour aboard the Barque Ecclesia.

And, lastly, if we in ACANZ&P do try to go Forward as is soon to be sanctioned, then my concern is just this: with one lot of oars rowing one way, and another another, then the net result will be our going round in circles. For a house divided against itself may not stand - or have we forgotten that?

Father Ron Smith said...

"What a great and wonderful thing it is, brethren, to live together in unity". Yes, and this is the problem with intentional schism - intentional severance from the Body, because of one's own vision of a purity that is neither given nor accessible this side of paradise.

Such was the problem Jesus battled in the Pharisees; their insistence on ritual purity, rather than an acknowledgement of one's imperfections before God and being thankful that God provides the only way to redemption. In other words; being satisfied with one's own spiritual state being superior to that of others. The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican again.

To separate out from others on the basis of their impurity is always a logistical (and moral) problem for Christians who think they alone have the answer to the problems of our common sinful human nature. God loved both Cain and Abel; the Prodigal and the dutiful sons. The problem lay in the 'righteous' one questioning the Father's love of the other son - for different reasns in these cases, but by the same standard. I guess the least understood counsel of Jesus to the 'righteous', is that they will be judged with the same measure that they judge their contemporary. God alone is Judge, and we administer judgement on others to our own peril!

"Jesu, Mercy; Mary, Pray". "God have mercy on me; a sinner!"

Unknown said...

Hi folks,

I have read Rod Dreher's book and I think it has some good stuff, he's not for complete withdrawal from culture, just not investing our hopes in contemporary culture to suddenly turn Christian. I'm with him on that point. My main response is that whatever monasteries we retreat to - real or metaphorical - social progressive activists will follow us and seek to change us or punish us. We need a more activist counter-insurgency strategy to ensure our freedom to practice our faith.

BrianR said...

"We need a more activist counter-insurgency strategy to ensure our freedom to practice our faith."

One answer is to have more children! The future belongs to those who show up for it. 'Progressives' (what a self-deluding word! - progressing into what? a minefield? a swamp?) are not much into having children - but they are into controlling and educating yours. Muslims OTOH are into having children - they will form the majority of European youth in 20 years' time. You see this already in the MFL textbooks I teach from, where have the German kids have Turkish or North African names.
Maybe one day I will write a little piece on 'How The Pill Destroyed Western Civilisation'.
The thesis is quite simple:
1. Post-war Europeans abandoned Christianity for hedonism.
2. Contraception, abortion, easy divorce and social security made this possible.
3. Birth rates plummeted after c. 1965 and the continent began to age.
4. Adult Muslims from North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia were imported to keep the buses, hospitals and cotton mills running.
5. They settled almost exclusively in the big cities and capitals. They didn't become atheist dark-skinned Westerners. They kept their religion and started having children - lots of them. They remained poor - and voted 80% for Corbyn in the UK. In Germany, about 1.2 million Muslims were invited to the continent by Merkel.
6. Meanwhile the white 'progressive left' kept up its 1960s war on Christianity, Christian ethics and Christian schools, with a strange alliance of atheist socialists, feminists, gays, African immigrants - and Muslims.
7. The Church of England - and the Roman Catholic Church - with its self-selected leftist leadership (including Welby) proved timid and failed utterly to bring the Gospel to Muslims, let alone the godless indigenous population. Slowly they succumbed out of fear and intellectual weakness.
8. Step by step, freedom of speech and movements disappeared from Europe in the name of 'security'. People felt less secure than ever.
9. The nightmare anticipated by Michel Houellebecq began to take place.

Jean said...

Such an interesting topic...

I think the gap is widening between what the Church or the Gospel stands for and what the pervading culture or society aligns with. Yet I think as that gap grows wider the message of the Gospel will actually become more rather than less attractive to the general populous.

Focus on being the church - yes I think this is essential because unless the plural we get our house in order we can hardly be a light to others. The Public Square - yes in God honouring ways; Shane Claiborne has some pretty powerful examples of doing this while witnessing to the Gospel. Overall I think the way to resist is best done as a 'stand for' finding inventive ways that demonstrate a stance in such a way it is counter-intuitive to what people expect, rather than always being on the defensive. Remember the Christian School whose students were caught in the flash flood and how they refused take on the growing NZ blame culture, and while accepting an investigation into the incident, befuddled media by refusing to respond by attacking the guides or their company.

Bowman I am not on your page on this one. I don't think Christians started singing counter-cultural just when The issue arose, nor do I think the societal discrimination of previous Christians were independent of the general mores of the time. A pointed example of this is woman preachers who came out of an answering to God's call were prevalent before womens position in the public sphere was acknowledged or the vote for women achieved, and equally they also faced discrimination from some sectors of the plural church because the public mores of the time was that women belonged at home. What is reading cultural into scripture and what is influencing culture with scripture is of course a process of discernment.

Father Ron Smith said...

"For a house divided against itself may not stand" - Bryden.

Precisely, this is why intentional schism 'is an horrid thing'. You can't blame the people who stay with the majority; only those who leave. I know which party I want to belong to: 'The Sinners, Redeemed by Christ'!

I would love us all to remain together, but this cannot be by force.

Jean said...

Regarding the public sphere - curious happenings with Tim Farron in the UK resigning because he felt it has become impossible for him to be a political leader and remain a faithful Christian. No wonder when you see how he was interogated by the media about his personal belief as though it was a crime to have one, particular of course picking on the 'hot topics' such as abortion where many Christian's viewpoints will differ from secular society.

Bryden Black said...

Sorry Ron, I think you might have misunderheard me. Two things:

1. The house which is about to become divided is ACANZ&P should the proposal of the Way Forward Group become reality. For they are seeking to house two irreconcilable and mutually incompatible "integrities" under one and the same roof.

2. As for majorities: it all depends upon the population in view - Dio Chc? ACANZ&P? The global AC?!

In other words, once again I find the language of schism inappropriate ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Bryden, to my confused, elderly mind, the word 'schism' means breaking away from the established entity with which one is normally associated. Perhaps you have another meaning and we are at cross purposes? Fr me, the prospect of breaking away from the parent body - in this case ACANZP - would be 'schism'.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think Christians started singing counter-cultural just when The issue arose, nor do I think the societal discrimination of previous Christians was independent of the general mores of the time."

My worry, Jean, is that the conservative nostalgia for the recent past that I see in the several Options is not, in fact, counter-cultural, and indeed looks a lot like stuckism fond of an era that our critics remember as a much darker time. If the problem is that others suspect Christians of being indifferent to the past suffering of sexual minorities, then yearning for the return of a social order in which they suffered seems an odd solution to it.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden and Ron
The question I am reflecting on is whether our church which clearly has, already in its midst, divided views on You Know What [not up for discussion itself here until 1 July!), is a house which is holding together?

My supplementary question, which will not finally be answered until GS 2018, but which will have a provisional answer on or about 1 July, is whether what is proposed underlines that we are a house of divided views holding together, ... or not?!

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for indicating you have only ACANZ&P as your "parent body". Yet I know you actually have a wider horizon in view - as do I. And our difficulty has precisely to do with the institutional forms of that wider Body.

It's all very well seeming to believe in the Church when it's merely an abstract, even mystical (naughty!) thing. The challenge is when we are concretely exposed to the likes of the fruits of African missions from yesteryear for example, coupled with the fruits of other forms of 'mission' equally zealous yet predicated on an opposing anthropology.

For the real challenge has been emerging these past say 70 years: while we've institutional relics (aka "denominations" mostly) across countless western countries, the forms of true "godliness" (yes; back to 2 Tim again) mix and mingle throughout the Majority World (aka the Third World) with scant regard to those historic relics. In this evolving situation, "schism" belongs to a world that is fast passing. In fact, it seeks only to hold onto a superior sense when the Majority extol a form of the post-colonial.

Bryden Black said...

Well Peter; yet again ACANZ&P will be ploughing furrows in ways - or shld that be Ways - that have merely pragmatic foundations with no regard for due ecclesiology. THIS is what troubles me most. So far we've completely dodged wrestling with the awkward theology behind the respective "integrities" .... And such failure can only result in an inchoate in-house 'ideology' (aka theology).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
Of course we do need to wait to see the details ...
But, pragmatics or not, ideology or theology, the fact is we are a church in which the ecclesiology of some is that we should and have authority to do so etc and the ecclesiology of some is that we should not and have no authority to do so and the ecclesiology of others is that we are making too much fuss; and, as best I can understand such ecclesiologies among us, they are all very theological because at root they rest on what we each think Jesus would do in the situation!

Bryden Black said...

Bowman and Peter;
I recently had reason to send to an old friend a Taonga article on euthanasia by a certain ACANZ&P bishop. The response was classic - in every sense of the word. Ripped to pieces with panache and wit in three short sentences.

And because ecclesiology and episcopacy are so intertwined, I have to say I find our local versions of each, in both theory and practice, as equally fissiparous as those seemingly being condemned on offer elsewhere.

"Authority" is surely and sorely needed. But as always, a mere organizational expression of authority in a most particular Body as the Church simply doesn't cut it when the theological work has not been done ...

No Peter; they do not rest on WWJD. They rely upon "what feels good to us" ...

Jean said...

Hi Bowman

I don't know if my knowledge of history goes back enough in this area to answer you sufficiently ... Just taking my own generation as a guideline I would say the majority of people I knew who belonged to the social group in NZ most likely to demonise or be violent towards sexual minorities were of the alpha male variety. I cannot remember anything ever being raised in the pulpit or discussed in church and I was dragged to church until age 18. This is not to say it did not happen elsewhere.

The majority of material I come across referring to the here and now don't seem to promote a return to what was as most come to it with if not a theological acceptance at the very least a strong pastoral pastoral approach (excluding certain countries with certain laws!). However, I do agree there are some who take the ultra conservative stance on every topic and probably do wish they were back in the days of corporal punishment. But lets just say when I was in a work social situation around a table where people were participating in 'Christians are a pack of ...... ' discussion my chicken nature to put my hand up and say excuse me was not based on nostalgia, it would have definitely been counter-cultural : )

I hope you are enjoying summer?


Anonymous said...

Peter and Bryden,


(i) Bishops are ultimately indispensible to a church's apostolicity, but they are not sufficient to ensure it.

(ii) Episcopates with a outward-looking missionary focus ensure apostolicity more effectively than episcopates with an inward-looking synodal focus.

(iii) Indeed, quasi-republican *synods* institute a civic meaning of church that competes with the divine meaning of church as *the continuing fellowship of the apostles in the new creation*.

(iv) The renewal of the episcopal authority in doctrine begins with the reassembly of the tripod of creed, canon, and communion.

(v) As the prophets spoke to "Israel and the nations," and as Jesus's disciples knew some others who cast out demons in his name, Anglicans need a catholic ecclesiology that respects assemblies that are not apostolic.

Anonymous said...



In a contemporary Reformational view, there are three warrants for episcopacy: (1) The biblical notions of shepherd and laying-on-of-hands point to it. (2) In practise, it holds together the tripod of apostolicity-- creed, canon, and communion. (3) Episcopacy secures the unity of the Church, *sine qua non*. Opposing arguments usually envisage churches that, however impressively growing, moral, and zealous, are not apostolic. On those, more below.

Confused bishops: ""Authority" is surely and sorely needed. But as always, a mere organizational expression of authority in a most particular Body as the Church simply doesn't cut it when the theological work has not been done ..."

But of course almost nobody advocates for a "mere organizational expression of authority," which is an oxymoron. And in the same "organisation," idiosyncratic bishops with no authority often serve alongside orthodox bishops who are truly authoritative. The fault is in the bishop, not the church.

In our time, two conditions confuse bishops: (a) Two centuries of atheological exegesis of scripture have pulled the legs of creed and canon off of the tripod, and apostolicity cannot be learned, taught, and defended on the basis of the succession alone; (b) among Anglicans (and Orthodox, but apparently not Methodists) local "synods" are responsive to the heresy of ethnophylitism, so that bishops who strive to be earnestly synodal can be less than apostolic. However, it is hard to imagine any other vehicle for the reform of these two conditions but an inspirited episcopate. Let us pray...

Para-apostolic churches: "For the real challenge has been emerging these past say 70 years: while we've institutional relics (aka "denominations" mostly) across countless western countries, the forms of true "godliness" (yes; back to 2 Tim again) mix and mingle throughout the Majority World (aka the Third World) with scant regard to those historic relics. In this evolving situation, 'schism' belongs to a world that is fast passing. In fact, it seeks only to hold onto a superior sense when the Majority extol a form of the post-colonial."

Sub-equatorial Christians learned how to be disorganised from congregational missionaries in the US and UK, and so, little as we or they may care about it, the myriad new churches there also belong to an ecclesiological tradition. In Singapore, Simon Chan is synthesising and teaching an interesting catholic variant of that tradition.

And we cannot extrapolate from the present to the future anywhere. In the C18, the fastest growing church in British America was the Moravian Church, while the Roman Catholic Church was what Bryden would call a relic mainly found among Recusant families in rural Maryland. The future of America looked securely Moravian, or at least Pietist, because of the Great Awakening, waves of German immigration, and the Moravians' unique success in evangelising the "Western Indians" on the frontier. But history happened-- much of it quite tragic-- with what results we know.

Anonymous said...


(In)effective episcopates: That same history suggests that not all episcopates are equally (in)effective. After their seminal council in Baltimore, the Catholic episcopate of the C19-20 were far more effective field commanders for organisation, growth, and catechesis on the ground than inward-looking Protestants who may have been celebrating their quasi-republican institutions and civic involvement rather too much. Recently, Roman Catholics have not only been the largest US church, but have had the greatest upward mobility of any US demographic group-- eight of nine justices on the US Supreme Court have been Roman Catholic.

Is there a Protestant parallel? Yes. The Methodist episcopate was likewise designed to take and organise territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and it succeeded in enrolling a vast proportion of the American middle class. Through most of the C20, the Methodist churches rivaled the Southern Baptist Convention as the largest Protestant denominations. Even without the papacy, a Protestant episcopate can be as effective as the Roman one in America if it has a like focus on evangelism.

Please note too that, although both Roman Catholics and Methodists debate That Topic as we do, their arguments have mostly concerned local discipline, not global doctrine. There is nothing in either body analogous to TEC's innovations or to ACNZP's AWF. Rome we have discussed here often. But the neglected Methodists, even without a papacy, are managing what Anglicans thus far have not. Liberal American bishops argue for the ordination of homosexuals, of course, traditionalist African bishops are critical of that and other Methodist innovation up north, and some here and there leave, as always, but no grand Methodist schism over first-order or second-order doctrine is imminent. In contrast, an Anglican tolerance of the intolerable that derives, not from our theological heritage, but from our quasi-civic governance apparatus is inspiring secession.

Bowman Walton

Brendan McNeill said...

I note today an article by Archbishop Cranmer on his blog which is pertinent to Rod Drehers book and the source of our original discussion:

In it he explains how the British Government in the wake of recent terrorist attacks is setting up a commission to eliminate “extremism”. An extremist view will be any communication that does not fall within the State’s definition of tolerance and conform with ‘British values’. Hate preaching will be considered extremist, but what constitutes hate preaching? Insistence that marriage should only be between one man and one woman, is that an extremist position?

Or stating that sexual expression outside of the context of marriage is sinful, is that an extremist view point?

We are being subject to a new state orthodoxy. The closets will not disappear; they will just have different occupants.

Bryden Black said...

Well Bowman; that's an essay on important themes, a fair amount of which I agree with.

I assume your tripod is a version of the Lambeth Quad. Tho I'd go further than that even in order to ground episcopacy. Have you come across Billy Abraham of SMU? Phil of religion from Oxford and N Ireland originally. Well; his Canonical Theism thesis is pretty powerful to my mind - not least as it came after all his work on the Logic of Evangelism and Catechumenate ministry. Your tripod sprouts now at least 8 legs and re-enacts the wholesome matrix of the Early Church, the origins after all of bishops (but NB the demographic / sociological flip side, which is SO alien to our present day set up; and which is therefore part of my reasoning re the praxis of present day ecclesial authority). So; no oxymoron here; and no idiosyncratic types would get near any see. For what is organically emerging by the 4th C is a complete package of charisms, all of whichare needed (not ala the US Constitution's three domains, to counter balance supposedly) to establish genuine freedom + form among the Household of God.

Our present ethos is so thin by comparison and distant from this (hence Billy's project) that it's little wonder our local ecclesial expressions of authority are finding This Issue so tricky - let alone general countercultural engagement (the thread's original theme).

So; thanks for your US church history examples. And as you suggest, the future has its own ways of unfolding. My own guess, for what it's worth, for ACANZ&P is a highly dysfunctional future.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brendan, this is interesting. About eight discrete innovations seem to be muddled here.

(1) The diagnosis that the physical harm of terrorism is caused by the communication of "extreme views."

(2) "British values" as a label for the criterion of what views are "extreme" and so likely to promote physical harm to the public.

(3) The prohibition of views for being "extreme" by that criterion (whatever it is) rather than for their actuarial likelihood of causing the physical harm of terrorism.

(4) Conflation of "terrorism" causing physical harm with "hate speech" giving offense.

(5) A listener's (or reader's) right to allow or block messages, especially presumptively obnoxious messages, from others.

(6) State "prior restraint" of messages presumably blocked messages by listeners.

(7) A blending of (1), (5), and (6) to warrant state penalties for communication that a listener might find "offensive."

(8) Imposing such penalties through a criminal rather than through a civil procedure.

Have I missed any? This is unlikely to save lives.

However, the linked example of a pastor who was visited by a constable for sending tracts to gay people suggests only that the mail is not immune to a strong trend affecting all of our communications these days-- we believe we have a right to be left alone, and strangers' messages about our religion or our sexuality are emphatically not exceptions to it.

In other contexts, I have seen evidence that-- quite apart from "hate speech" or "offense"-- (5) is a widely cherished "right" today. Some conservatives see ideological persecution in the barrier that this puts in their way. But I think this empowerment of listeners simply continues a longer and relatively non-ideological trend that the left has deplored for years as an obstacle to street-level organising.

This empowerment began, I suppose, with the battles against "junk mail" in our mailboxes, spam in our inboxes, pushy solicitations in shopping districts, and sexual harassment in the workplace, but has evolved into a wider sense that just as there is no duty to listen to unwanted messages, so there can be no presumptive right to send unwanted messages just because one feels like it. Rather, persons normally opt in to the communications that they are willing to entertain, and other messages enjoy no more good will or protection than litter tossed on one's lawn from a passing car. In this culture, unwanted messages increasingly seem unethical. One's attention is one's own.

Here and there, what has been prudent courtesy is now hardening into law and custom as the new mores prevail over the old. So the wild-eyed speaker's right to say whatever he wants to say to whomever he wants to say it is gradually being balanced or cancelled by the choosy listener's right to select what s/he hears. We might say that the morality of unbounded "free speech" dear to a certain generation is being overtaken by a cooler morality of contractual speech in the younger ones. So whether a local constable visits them or not, evangelists will have to learn, as advertisers, political parties, etc already have, how to get a listener's consent before speechifying.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman and Bryden (re episcopacy comments above)
I appreciate the survey, Bowman, and the insights into realms unknown to me, and I quite understand that an underperforming branch of God's church in year X may be an over-subscribed branch in the year X+200.
I also know only too well that species of bishop who is more synodal than apostolic (stressing, I stress, that I am talking about the several decades of my life as an Anglican and not pointing a finger at any contemporary bishop).
Nevertheless I wonder if the situation we are in, at least here in ACANZP, has some nuances not touched on?
One is that what is apostolic is always about the past (deposit of faith, etc) as well as the present (reaching out with the gospel) as well as the future (what does the gospel mean in a new situation?). That future question is surely answered in part by the bishop being synodal, testing out the reception of the church to new ideas and developments.

Prompted by being with a female presiding colleague this morning, I thought of how a women being ordained a priest is a new thing in a number of ways (relative to the deep past of the church). Is it apostolic that bishops have ordained women as priests or synodal? (Or both?). As best I can discern, the apostolic deposit of faith re ordaining women is controversial across the Christian world, so difficult to appeal to it, for or against the matter; the action of the apostles in ordaining or not ordaining women as presbyters is a matter of arguing from silence. So the synodal mode of episcopal discernment and decision-making comes to the fore here. As it is and shall be on You Know What. Also, perhaps, euthanasia ... the next great issue of our day.

Anonymous said...

Bryden, I learned that a tripod of creed, canon, and episcopate ensures the Church's identity through time as an undergraduate studying patristics. But it is on my mind now because of Robert W Jenson's lectures in Otago, published in the Interpretation series as Canon and Creed. Jenson-- noted also for somewhat abrasive relations with confused Lutherans wearing purple-- devotes a chapter to an argument that the historic episcopate is implicit in the theological exegesis that he explains elsewhere in the book. If the Church has a native critical theory of the canon in her creeds, then she must also have a college that practises such theological exegesis through space and time, and she does.

At least as I read it, Jenson's argument implies that episcopal authority could be renewed as theological exegetes in purple stand together. I play, therefore, with a tripod in which bishops are the pivot holding canon, creed, and community together.

I am aware of Canonical Theism, but could not follow your application of it to my comment.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

"That future question is surely answered in part by the bishop being synodal, testing out the reception of the church to new ideas and developments."

Peter, this sounds like the *synod as focus group* rather than the Anglican *synod as governing body*. It is the eminently reasonable rationale that Romans and the Orthodox use for their tentative experiments with representative bodies of laymen and clergy. But it is not what we do.

We have bodies that, as simulacra of the British Parliament and the US Congress, govern bishops on the authority of voting majorities. As such, they are modeled on institutions too intrinsically worldly, even nationalist, to be an organic part of the universal fellowship of the apostles. The truth is one.

And even if such ethnophylitism were not incoherent on the face of it, we have the further irony that the synods in many places fail even as a representation of the Church in the nation where they meet. That is because the fracture of the local Church by race, class, and ethnicity prevents any single denomination from convening the sort of meeting that our synods were meant to be. TEC's General Convention represents liberal upper middle class professionals in an archipelago of cities and college towns from the Atlantic to the Pacific, not all the sorts and conditions of the baptised in the United States of America and points south. (Why has the Anglican Communion not yet liberated the Anglicans of Latin America from that neo-colonial synod of "los gringos?") If TEC wants to be an apostolic presence in every American community, then its bishops should govern with eyes that look well beyond that triennial meeting of lawyers, businesspeople, college teachers, etc who vote for Democrats.

And please note that, while some occasionally agree with the synods that agree with them, there are none among us who actually believe all that Anglican synods say *de fide* in all matters of faith and morals. Not only is such implicit faith not required of an Anglican, but we can observe that the Anglicans we know do not believe that tongues of fire descend to illumine their synods and make them infallible. Indeed, synods are almost required to be ignorant; if it were required that they know more than the unstudied majority then they would not be accepted as representative. So the plausible influence that synods can exert is very much less than hard divine questions intrinsically require. That is why the legitimacy of synodal decisions made in the Anglican Communion is so swiftly and reasonably denied on both the left and the right.

Anonymous said...


"Is it apostolic that bishops have ordained women as priests or synodal? (Or both?)."

In TEC, the ordination of women was pushed hard by liberal bishops who ordained women even when the House of Bishops had not approved the practise and the General Convention had not changed the canons. In the CoE, the story is similar except that, because the canons were followed there, the General Synod was the site of a generation of bitter campaigning to change them.

The working constitution that we then saw in the North Atlantic was that when bishops were divided, synods of clergy and laity held the balance of power. But TEC's recent changes of canons have now subordinated bishops to the General Convention to such a degree that its polity is unique. On a Protestant theology of orders, one could well doubt the integrity of orders whose bearers are no longer free to present and enact the Word.

"As best I can discern, the apostolic deposit of faith re ordaining women is controversial across the Christian world, so difficult to appeal to it, for or against the matter; the action of the apostles in ordaining or not ordaining women as presbyters is a matter of arguing from silence."

Some practises are forbidden insofar as they embody denial of apostolic dogma, but are tacitly allowed when they do not. Most adiaphora, including the ordination of women, are like this. The clearest example is the cremation of the dead, which ancient canons forbade as a practise of pagan disbelief in the general resurrection, but which have not usually preempted a church burial of modern Christians, yet which may still be enforced to correct belief in, say, the transmigration of souls.

The Holy Spirit in the scriptures teaches the reconciliation of male and female in Christ. Where the ordination of women embodies denial of that teaching, it is heresy and should not be practised. But where faith in that reconciliation is otherwise embodied in ordinary practise, then there is no reasonable objection to ordaining gifted women to the service of the Body. In my own time and place, I have favoured the ordination of women precisely to embody the scriptural teaching.

Temperamentally, some bishops and their communions will seek a safe harbour of unchanging practise, and others will risk error in using discretion to meet pressing needs of their local church; despite their disagreement, bishops of these two kinds can remain in communion when they agree on the doctrine behind the flexibility. I believe that to be true even with respect to That Topic. Other bishops, however, seek to change practise in order to plant non-apostolic belief in their churches; they may be Christians, of a sort, but they are outside the apostolic fellowship. That is the point that many hear GAFCON making, whether or not it in fact does.

"So the synodal mode of episcopal discernment and decision-making comes to the fore here."

Not among the successors to the apostles. If divided or confused, they do not turn to popular opinion; they turn to other successors.

There is a test of loyalties that sometimes cannot be avoided. Many who believed that the balance of power in divided episcopates should instead have been held by sister Anglican churches or other apostolic communions have since joined them.

The hard problem that we face is that there is no Anglican way to believe in the apostolicity of any isolated denomination on earth, and that remaining in "the fellowship of the apostles, the breaking of bread and the prayers" will from time to time require that we just not do the denominational thing. This requirement is nothing other than service to the freedom of the Holy Spirit and the Word.

Bowman Walton

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Bowman and Peter

That’s an interesting conversation on Apostolic succession and women in ministry and how that may or may not be reflected in the Church today, Catholic, Anglican or otherwise.

"As best I can discern, the apostolic deposit of faith re ordaining women is controversial across the Christian world, so difficult to appeal to it, for or against the matter; the action of the apostles in ordaining or not ordaining women as presbyters is a matter of arguing from silence." 

Peter, I’m not convinced that the ordination of women is just a matter of arguing from silence.

“Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.  He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.” Acts 21:8-9

Where did these four daughters exercise their gift if not within the Church gathered? How can this passage be reconciled with 1:Cor 14:34 where Paul states that “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak.” ?

Bowman speaks to the question of reconciliation between male and female in the context of ministry and ordination. The Scripture also states that “a man’s gift makes room for him.” Proverbs 18:16. At the very least there is an argument from Scripture for the ordination of woman, as there is equally an argument against.

Some of the most effective missionaries I have met and partnered with have been women. They have travelled overseas, learned another language, faithfully sown the seed of the gospel throughout their lifetime, planted churches, trained and installed indigenous leadership – usually men. Were they acting in an apostolic capacity?

I would say yes, absolutely.

They were affiliated with a non-denominational missionary support organization that provided both pastoral care, and a level of oversight. In addition, they were connected relationally with ‘sending churches’ here in NZ.

From my observation, an apostolic gift is just that. It is not necessarily inherited through a denominational line, although it may be. It is not given automatically because someone holds a clerical title or formal office within the church / denominational structure. It is a ministry gift like all others, and should be formally acknowledged only when the gift is evidenced in the life of the individual. My point being that the appointment to office does not implicitly confer the gift, even if the office holder is a new Bishop in a long line of succession within any denomination.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Synods may not be immune from populist fervour in their decision-making which is later regretted by all and sundry but Synods may and do discern the will of God.

I happen to think the ordination of women is one of those well discerned matters, also the declaration that apartheid is a sin. Within an Anglican polity such as ours, the most important discernments take place via a "twice round" procedure in which General Synod twice and each diocesan synod once, gets to examine matters for change in the life of the church.

Bishops can and do guide Synods considering matters for discernment and sometimes it seems that bishops see no particular episcopal/apostolic view at stake and work within the synod's collective discernment of the Holy Spirit's mind, good to us and the Holy Spirit, etc!

I think, in the end, I place more value on Synodical government than you do :)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
The question of the ordination of women is generally a question about (i) upon whom may ordaining hands be laid; (ii) who may be appointed to roles of bishop, presbyter (priest), deacon.

The ministry of female prophets in the New Testament does not in itself yield clear answers to (i) and (ii) because (i) we are not given reporting on prophets in the NT being ordained, and (ii) prophets are not bishops, presbyters or deacons.

Thus while I myself, in agreement with you, place store on the fact that prophets were both male and female, and in that role exercised leadership and speaking to the whole congregation, I recognise that others among us to do not place such store on their ministry as a guide to whom might be ordained today.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

Thanks for the clarification re-ordination.

In respect to synod’s and the level of flexibility within which they may operate, I’m reminded that even the Promised Land had defined boundaries (Exodus 23:31).

And, lest we forget, there was a reason why God displaced the original inhabitants of the land with Israel’s arrival – A displacement that came with its own warning.

“Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” Leviticus 18:24-28

Bryden Black said...

Two things Bowman.
I attended most of those lectures and so had got your tripod. Tho the later book covers some further ground.
Then, WA is relevant because he embraces your tripod, but expands those motifs of the Early Church he considers as vital (in both senses). Bishops as evangelists and those involved directly in catechetical practices, in the power of the Spirit more Pentecostal (we'd have say now) than classically Catholic begin to fill out the picture. I'd agree utterly with WA. Because authority now is less a function of organization / institution, and more charismatic and organic. In fact, an RC historian described it to me as the contrast between second millennium and first - with one of the keys to Vat II being a return to first millennium for the sake of true(r) apostolic nature of the Church.

So; WA > RWJ in this line of discussion

Anonymous said...

Yes, Peter, we disagree, quite amicably, about local Anglican synods that make doctrine and demand ultimate loyalty. Just as medieval popes made many fine decisions, but ultimately exceeded their warranted authority, so the same is true now of Anglican synods that invent new doctrines and depose those who disagree with them. They too are riding for a fall.


(a) My comments about "synods" refer, not to the provisional gatherings of bishops and other clergy that have been with the Church since Jerusalem (eg Orange, Nicaea), but to the C19 innovation of bodies that are permanent, elected, representative, national, governing, and sovereign. These new bodies were modeled on parliaments, and the church councils of the past were nothing like them.

(b) It was one thing to transfer papal powers to the English monarch as a way of achieving effective autocephaly among the Protestant churches of northern Europe. It was, in my view, a bridge too far to disperse those same papal powers from the British sovereign to invented governing bodies in dozens of other places as a perquisite of nationhood or denominational identity.

(c) Similarly, it was one thing for a God-anointed ruler to require the conformity of the clergy in her realm, but another thing for an elected body to require the same.

(d) With a few pro forma exceptions, the Convocations of Canterbury and York did not meet from the Reformation to the second half of the C19, when they were revived mainly to reduce the interference of the British Parliament. Thus Anglicanism achieved its self-understanding entirely without synods, and a self-understanding that depends much on synods cannot be Anglican.

(e) This is why a church that cannot imagine itself without the modern synods (eg TEC, ACC) understandably struggles with ancient episcopal norms that undercut them (eg churches should follow the discernments of Lambeth Conferences; Anglican primates have the last word on doctrinal matters, etc), and is honestly perplexed when Anglican churches with longer memories object that it exercises infallibility (eg marriage revision) and universal pastorate (eg not disenrolling but actually deposing from holy orders those who disagree with the General Convention). If all power in heaven and on earth is not given to each national synod to do with as its majority chooses, they wonder, then what is the meaning of it all?

(f) There are places where the norms of parliamentary democracy or of denominationalism are so unfamiliar to the mass of believers that Anglican churches in them do not and will not have the synodal system as we know it. It cannot, therefore, be a necessary feature of Anglicanism per se, and it would be best to stop speaking as though it is.

(g) These are roughly the same places whose prelates have objected most strenuously to actions of TEC synods and to inactions of constrained CoE bishops.

(h) Thinking historically, the Communion would not be in its present predicament if the proponents of disruptive synodal acts were more aware of the thin ice on which they stand with (a) the vast number of non-denominational Christians, and (b) other episcopal churches.

(i) The best hope of renewed apostolicity that the Church has today is a revival of traditional conciliarism among the bishops that restores a more organic, less institutional texture to church life. GAFCON is an exemplar with flaws in theory and practise, but they have understood the problem.

(j) The first step is to unmask pretenses with a more truthful ecclesiology.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Brendan, on the ordination of women, ships pass in the night. Here's why.

If one believes in the visibility of the Church in traditionally Protestant ways, then one may be responsive to a systematic argument with broad scriptural support-- all priesthood is participation in and exhibition of Christ's priesthood; this is a vocation of all those in Christ; there is no doubt that women can be believers in Christ; women do participate in and can therefore exhibit the one priesthood of Christ; decisions about this are a matter of good order.

However, if one does not believe in the visibility of the Church in the traditionally Protestant ways, then one does not usually follow the step above from participation to exhibition. Moreover, one seeks scriptural support that is more like a proposition of positive law than support for a statement of the way things are. Indeed, one often reads the New Testament as a manual of unchanging practise because, absent any other visible authority, one has no other choice.

Bowman Walton

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Bowman

Thank you for the historical context regarding the Anglican synod. As someone new to this process synod appears to display all the characteristics of a tail wagging the dog.

I can understand the desire for ‘inclusion’ that must have once prompted the establishment of synods. However, in practice it appears that many delegates view themselves as progressive change agents tasked with dragging the church into compliance with the social mores of the 21st century.

It should have been obvious at the outset that synod would inevitably be captured by the disaffected. Those who are reasonably satisfied with the status quo have no reason to push forward remits and advocate for change.

Consequently, absent intervention from the Bishops, the Anglican church is being lead not by those who embrace an orthodox Christianity, but instead by those who view many of our inherited texts and practices as outdated and in need of reinterpretation or abandonment.

It’s difficult to see how this can end well.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
I agree with your analysis re ordination.

I continue to disagree with aspects of your case against synods.

Yes, agreed, if following the will of synods because they are perfect expressions of the "culture" of democracy (a la Westminster/Washington), then the church is as bound into "cultural captivity" as it is in other ways which have served the church and the mission of God badly.

No, disagreed: if we see synods as modern expressions of councils of old then we see the church seeking in a conciliar manner (rather than, say, papal, or patriarchal manner) to discern the will of God. (The CofE which needed no convocations for centuries was, of course, relying on conciliar decisions of the early Christian centuries, and a self-understanding of its reformations as consistent with those councils).

In our own situation, here in Down Under, we are so intent on achieving consistency with God's will, that on a Certain Matter, we have taken several General Synods and many diocesan synods to get to where we are at (not yet made public, nor confirmed by the next General Synod, but likely to be a proposal which enables traditional orthodoxy to continue while also allowing a modern orthodoxy (i.e. sensitive to social change) to be exercised under constraints).

Elsewhere in the world we see the Roman Catholic Church so exercised on a related matter of human sexuality, eucharist for the divorced, that it too is subject to precisely the same charge which concerns you, that there might be national variations in discernment of the will of God.

Perhaps there is a special case for saying that issues in human sexuality do not admit of straightforward solutions, whether those solutions appeal to tradition/Tradition, Scripture, "the Bishops" or even to synods.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

It’s a very post-modern attitude to hold that two conflicting ideas can be held concurrently without conflict or contradiction. Namely your reference to ‘traditional orthodoxy’ and ‘modern orthodoxy’, or as others have imaginatively described, ‘two integrities’.

Our progressive leadership has gone to great lengths to square the circle on This Matter. I understand we are now being subjected to ‘respectful conversation’ evenings that are tightly scripted and contain at least one video presentation that is very supportive of ‘you know what’.

I don’t believe these re-education programs are mandatory, but they are Orwellian.

We cannot abstract our sexuality from what it means to be human, or make it a ‘special case’ where individuals may do what is right in their own eyes, and still remain in fellowship with Christ and His church, the desires of synod not withstanding.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
I trust no one hereabouts is making a judgment about Respectful Conversations they have not actually taken part in! "re-education" is not, for example, any part of the purpose or plan for the conversations.

I am not aware of individuals in the life of our church seeking to do what is right in their own eyes. Are you?

What I am aware of is individuals and church communities (parishes) seeking to do what is right in God's eyes, but not agreeing on what that is, and thus we are trying to find a way forward which enables all who share a desire to do God's will to hang together in the Lord.

So far the Anglican church has done this hanging together despite a number of differences through the centuries. I am hoping for a few centuries more!

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

I have not taken part in the ‘respectful conversations’ evenings but I am relying upon a trusted source who has. As far as I’m aware, all conversations in the Anglican church are respectful, so for the leadership to frame a conversation about same sex relationships in this way, and to include what I understand to be a gay person’s testimony is advocacy, and explicit endorsement.

By any chance, does the respectful conversations evening contain testimonies from Christians who were in the gay scene and who we set free from homosexual attraction following their encounter with Christ and subsequent salvation? Or from gay Christians who have retained their sexual orientation but are committed to singleness and celibacy?

I’m presuming the answer to the above questions is ‘no’ because although such testimonies exist, and are very much part of the gay Christian experience, they do not fit with the leaderships progressive narrative. Nothing short of blessing the sexual union between gay couples will suffice.

Can I also ask where are the ‘respectful theological’ evenings on same sex relationships where we as Anglicans search the Scriptures together to obtain the mind of Christ on their legitimacy or otherwise? They are virtually non-existent. The only one I know of was held more than 12 months ago. The visiting speaker failed to address first and second order question, dismissed the 'controversial' six passages on homosexuality, and chose to remind us that conservatives are prone to judgementalism.

Perhaps one could be forgiven for thinking only certain conversations surrounding same sex relationships are welcome or respected in the current environment?

For the sake of clarity, I deemed these respectful same sex relationship conversations to be Orwellian in my previous post because viewed from an orthodox Christian understanding of Scripture, they imply that sin is righteousness, bondage is freedom, and truth is lies.

And yes, I do understand that not all Anglicans embrace orthodoxy.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
The Respectful Conversations are designed to have videos from a gay and lesbian person respectively in order to ensure that such voices are present in the conversations. I think you would agree that it is pretty hard to guarantee across 25 or so conversations in a diocese that gay and lesbian voices will be heard because they will universally turn out to all conversations.

Other voices have not been offered via video but members of churches who have come to the conversations have been free to share their testimony, experiences and thoughts (without interruption = "respectful"!).

Most have been very happy with the format of the conversations; many have voiced no objections to the use of the videos; a few have made clear their unhappiness with the inclusion of the videos (e.g. without balancing testimonies).

Theological conversations have featured in the life of the Diocese through a couple of decades (i.e. from time to time, no claim made here about "annually.") You reference one such evening which has been much discussed on this site and your dissatisfaction with the offering that night is shared by others. A year or so before that evening there were other conversations in the Diocese, largely facilitated by, ahem, me. People were quite kind in their appreciation :)

A critical matter will be the reception of the Working Group's report and its recommendations. As we do not yet know what the content of that will be we have not yet worked out an appropriate way to receive and reflect on it, other than that there will be time in our forthcoming Synod for synod members to discuss it. All suggestions welcomed, once we have the report and recommendations ... hopefully about a week from now.

Caleb said...

Bird has completely lost the plot. It's utterly farcical to portray conservative cisgender and heterosexual (and/or celibate) Christians as the victims in societies like Australia, and LGBTIQA activists as oppressors.