Friday, July 28, 2017

Beautiful Anglican proposal's shortcomings critically exposed

I actually find it quite amusing to have described the proposal before our church as "beautiful" and to find less the number of fingers on one hand of supporters for doing so.

A very sharp, thoughtful criticism of the proposal and of my response to it is made by eminent CofE theologian Martin Davie here.

I have a comment or two percolating in my mind, but you may have comments to make immediately!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Robed Anglican mission? (1)

Cricketers are not quite cricketers in my view when they dress in clothes not coloured white (with cream sweater permissible). However the T20 and 50 over games are still cricket so I tolerate the coloured "pyjamas" worn for such occasions.

Of course fine games of cricket are played with no uniform at all - beach cricket, backyard cricket, church picnic cricket, street cricket, school playground cricket. And all cricket is good! (I don't understand why Genesis did not tell us about its creation on the eighth day.)

The question of appropriate robes and proper "to robe or not to robe" church has been batted around a bit recently. Ian Paul urged mitres tossed overboard, Catholicity and Covenanted responded, as did Liturgy, then the CofE GS changed rules re robing, to which Liturgy responded (and related previous posts are here and here).

Here I do not want to engage directly with any of those posts/news and thus I may risk repeating fine points already made. But before going further I am delighted to share the following, apposite quote and wonder if you can guess about what period in modern Anglican life it was written [answer at bottom of post]:

""...Anglican clergy were spending more time and energy debating what robes they should wear than addressing the great issues of the day and their effect upon the church's ability to fulfill the Great Commission. This was largely due to the disturbing effects of the Oxford Movement, and the increasing defensiveness among evangelicals of all denominations, in the face of the new thinking that was threatening traditional interpretations of the Bible and the inerrancy of Scripture. Evangelicals generally retreated into an obdurate and non-academic literalism that was plainly indefensible and was a set-back to evangelism among the more educated classes.""

That is, any post about robes and Anglican life should not be about robes alone but about how we fulfill the Great Commission (and what role robes might play in that fulfillment).

A first observation then is that the Anglican church may involve robes but it is not constituted by them. We are constituted by the Great Commission - by Jesus gathering the disciples together who worshipped him and received instruction to convey his teaching into the world, baptising those who responded and wished to become disciples.

Of course this commission constitutes 'the church' and all churches which are part of the one church of Christ. Our specific distinction or charism as Anglicans is that we are a church of Word and Sacrament, expressed through liturgies which themselves are faithful words expressing the gospel of gracious salvation. Our liturgies, we implicitly if not explicitly claim, protect and safeguard the gospel which we preach. In particular they safeguard the gospel from the vagaries of individual interpretation.

When our liturgies are unfaithful to the gospel of grace, or, indeed, we ditch liturgies, we are less than Anglican. The role of Synods in setting liturgies is not to maintain some "fine Anglican liturgical" tradition (beautiful and wonderful though that may be) but to ensure that our liturgies express the good news of Jesus Christ. In the spirit of the Great Commission this includes liturgies which are accessible to as many people as possible.

In sum, from this first observation: as Anglicans we are committed to liturgical worship as part of our constitution in respect of the Great Commission.

The question of robes, then, is a question of whether robes are necessitated by our liturgical worship or not. (Here I raise the question in a general way. The rubrics of the agreed, common liturgy of ACANZP are clear: priests at eucharists are to be robed. In this canonical sense, a particular answer is given: robes are necessitated in some instances by our liturgical worship).

First, we can give a descriptive answer to the question - descriptive of actual Anglican practice. In my personal experience of Anglican liturgical worship, including eucharistic worship, in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and the Church of England, robes are not necessary to liturgical worship. Across such churches we have robed leadership of worship accessed by many, including young people and we have unrobed leadership of worship accessed by many, including young people. (Though in the church I know best, here in these islands, my observation is that more under 40s attend non-robed led services than robed led services). Put another way, faithful, proper Anglican church life does not require robes when viewed from the most primary foundation for church life, more primary than the 39A, the Great Commission. They are bene esse not esse of the church (beneficial but not essential).

Secondly, we can give a theological answer to the question: robes are not required by any instruction of our Lord, or by his apostles, or by any implicit requirement from the essence of great liturgy (which is to offer words for worship which are faithful to the gospel).

I want to underline the point above by noting carefully that some aspects of robing seem to draw scriptural motivation from (say) Leviticus and the wonderful robing worn by priests and attendants in the ancient tabernacle and temple. But this has nothing to do with scriptural requirement. Read Hebrews, please, and recall the once and for all, final and complete sacrifice of Christ our Great High Priest. Nothing about our worship as people of the New Covenant requires any continuation of requirements of the Old Covenant.

What we can usefully ask is whether robing is beneficial and the answer to that is a resounding Yes.
But I am out of time and I shall try to find a moment of time to elaborate that answer.

The citation above is taken from the book by Clifford Hill - The Wilberforce Connection. It was emailed to me by a friend and I do not know which page number it is taken from.

Friday, July 21, 2017

2018 Holy Land (and Greece) Pilgrimage

I happily (and freely) advertise a new pilgrimage to the Holy Land tour led by Dean Mike and Patsy Hawke (with extra trip to Greece) in May 2018.

Details are here and here.

A promotional video is here.

Mike is one of our best known clergy in ACANZP (having recently concluded a travelling role with our Missions Board) and is currently Dean of Nelson Cathedral.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Public Theology this Sunday at the Transitional Cathedral

Next in our Theologians at the Cathedral series is Professor David Tombs, Professor of Public Theology at the University of Otago.

All are welcome to participate in Evensong at 5 pm during which David will preach. Then after light refreshments, David will lead a seminar on his topic until 7.30 pm conclusion.

A notice re topic etc and suitable for church bulletins this week is this:

"‘Theologians in the Cathedral’ seminar

This Sunday 23 July at 5pm, the ‘Theologians in the Cathedral’ seminar by Prof David Tombs is being held at the Transitional Cathedral:

‘The Abused Body of Christ: Why does naming Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse matter for Public Theology?’

All welcome."

Frankly I am not sure what the topic entails so I am eagerly looking forward to enlightenment!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flourishing through Bible Study

Recently Ian Paul through his blog Psephizo has generated a storm or two of controversy (e.g. #mitregate) and he has a stirring reflection/report on the recent CofE General Synod which seemed to be dominated by, er, one or two related issues.

I might yet come back to mitres and other clergy vestments (noting that the same General Synod resolved to permit greater freedom of clergy dress). But today I simply note to you a lovely guest post on Psephizo, by Richard Peers, a recent and well-received visitor in this country when he spoke at the Anglican Schools conference. Richard is Director of Education in the Diocese of Liverpool.

The post is on the value of participating in depth, academic Bible study conferences - a matter dear to my own heart - and its loveliness for me personally is that the conference he went to was at Tyndale House, Cambridge, a study centre and library it has been my privilege to visit on a number of occasions.

The last two paragraphs of the report make an important point in an era when we talk about the church "flourishing" and doing so precisely because we work on this flourishing occurring when we are acutely aware that our differences might inhibit it.

"I gained a great deal from the conference and would love to go again next year although I might be more comfortable with Biblical Theology than the very detailed work of New Testament. Tyndale is, of course, not my natural milieu but, as always, I was struck by the way in which orthodox Christian belief provides a deep fellowship. I met many people with whom I enjoyed talking and getting to know. It is probably just a personality thing—but I especially loved the lack of apparently clever cynicism that all too often pervades Anglican gatherings; there was no attempt at pretending other than that we were a group of people who love to talk about Scripture. There was no embarrassment, over meals or walking between sessions, at talking about this endlessly fascinating subject.

There is much talk in the Church of England about mutual flourishing. I spend a considerable amount of my time and energy trying to ensure that it is a reality. I am convinced that if it is to be real it must mean not that groups each flourish separately but that the ‘mutual’ means that we flourish because we gain from each other. I gained much from this conference and am grateful that I have had this enriching experience."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: the other "marriage" debate

There is a sea change going on in world politics, even amongst those nations full of climate change deniers! Previously unquestioned matters are now being changed without questions asked.

One such change is the (bad pun) coming up, that other "marriage" debate, the marijuana debate, about marijuana being made legal here and there. Actually, I am noticing that there is little debate. Articles in NZ media are mostly of the "look it does no harm and, better, when taken for medicinal purposes relieves pain and suffering." Despite my personal observation that marijuana advocates at promotional stalls seem to speak v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, there is little I can see in the media about the ill-effects of the drug.

Anyway, lest I give the impression I speak as some kind of expert, at this link is a considered piece with respect to the matter as it is being addressed in NZ these days.

Would you vote this election for a party which advocates for marijuana law reform?

Does it make a difference whether the policy is solely focused on medicinal use of marijuana?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lost (?) comments just published

Have discovered quite a few comments which had not been conveyed to me in the usual way by email so have published them now (relating a number of recent posts).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Confecting a Valid Eucharist


Recently the Vatican has been in the news for (according to headlines) banning the use of gluten-free bread at the Mass. Natch the reality is a bit more subtle than that. What the Vatican has done is clarify rules surrounding the bread to be used, in my words (1) not just any old bread from the supermarket (2) low-gluten may be used, where "low" equals some semblance of truth can be given to the description that it is bread made of wheat. Citing from the Cardinal Sarah letter:

"“Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.  Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread”"

Now, whether this works for coeliac disease sufferers is something I am not qualified to comment on. Nor do I find sufficient details in this Stuff article about the current Catholic regulations in NZ re "gluten-free" wafers to work out whether or not those regulations are the same as what I have cited above or different.

Intriguingly, for me as an Anglican who is comfortable with grape juice being offered as an alternative to wine (for children, for alcoholics), the letter also speaks about the offering of grape juice instead of wine. But it is not the grape juice we Anglicans typically use when we use grape juice:

"“Mustum, which is grape juice that is either fresh or preserved by methods that suspend its fermentation without altering its nature (for example, freezing), is valid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist”"

But mustum is "thick" grape juice, the result of the initial pressing of the grapes: juice, skin, seeds, stems crushed into a thick liquid with 7-23% solid matter. In other words, this is grape juice on the way to becoming wine, without fermentation, and not filtrated to get the watery juice we call grape juice. (Note to parishes which use blackcurrant juice rather than grape juice: you really, really ought not to do that!)

Juridical approach to Validity

What most interests me as an Anglican, however, about this letter, is the manner in which it represents one aspect of Roman thinking which, mostly, is very different to Anglican thinking. That is, a juridical approach to minute matters of pastoral care and theology. Coeliacs may like or lump the proscription of completely gluten-free bread. Valid bread is defined by law and not by description. The validity of the eucharist, on this thinking, is valid according to following Roman canon law and involves not only a validly ordained priest following a validly authorised liturgy but also validly acceptable bread and wine (or, in certain permitted-by-the-bishop circumstances, low gluten bread and/or mustum).

For Anglicans, I suggest we are happy to use any bread which is described as bread (gluten free, rye, from the supermarket, made by prayerfully commissioned wafer makers, etc). And we do this, not because we do not believe in rules (we have some pertaining to communion, e.g. must be presided over by a priest or bishop)* nor because we are casual or careless (though sometimes we are, but that is a post for another day), but because we cannot see Jesus himself making a fuss over this (imagining there might have been some gluten free bread at the Last Supper, we think he would have happily broken and distributed that).

Also, we think that some rules are made to be broken. A eucharist in a Japanese POW camp, using rice grains and water is a valid eucharist because, under the circumstances, that is the best that can be done to obey the greater rule, Do this in remembrance of me. And, pertaining to coeliacs, we would happily break the rule re wheat-based bread in order to include coeliacs in communion than exclude them. If gluten-free rather than low-gluten bread is the best that can be done to obey the greater rule, then so be it. (See argument made here).

Now, my point here is not to argue the superiority of Anglican thinking over Roman thinking but to note that, when so much of our ways of Christian life, including emphasis on the eucharist, are bound by common traditions, values and attitudes, nevertheless there are some real differences in approach, which, from time to time, are highlighted in global, public pronouncements from our respective HQs.

*On the specific matter of bread and wine for communion, NZPB, p. 515 specifies:
"The bread for the Eucharist should be a good quality bread (either loaf or wafer) and the wine for the Eucharist should be good quality wine."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Beautiful Anglican Accommodation - Down Under's Way Forward

NB: I see that now we have reached 200 comments, that 201 and beyond are on a new thread, which you can reach by clicking on "newest", near to the 200th comment. (Alternatively, if you go straight to the 201st comment you may need to click on something appropriate to get back to the first 200 comments.

Original Post:

At last and in plenty of time for our diocesan synods in a month or two's time, we have the interim report and recommendations from the GS Working Group.

Read the Taonga article here, follow the links, and, obviously, read the full PDF document here. (There is a shorter version here but the details in the appendices are what count).

My verdict: a beautiful Anglican accommodation.


It gives (many) conservatives and (many) liberals what they have asked for, and makes few demands on the middle of our church.

I do not want to have to submit to the authority of General Synod (because it has approved something I am not happy with)?
I will not have to do that because the declarations will change.

I wish the blessing of a same sex partnership to be able to take place in an Anglican church?
In most, but likely not all, dioceses/hui amorangi permission will be given for priests to conduct such blessings provided the local vestry is agreeable to that happening.

I feel I would have to leave the church if it approved a blessing formulary (because that would mean our church had formally changed its doctrine on marriage). There will not be such a change. Services of blessing will be approved at a more local level - the diocese.

I am worried that I will be disciplined by the church if I conduct a blessing or if I refuse to conduct a blessing. That will be ruled out, both ways.

I am concerned that my parish, when it comes time to choose a new vicar, will be bullied by the Nomination Board into accepting a priest who will reverse my parish's policy on blessing of same sex partnerships. That can be prevented because parishes and individuals will be able to form communities of common accord with other like-minded parishes. Bishops must respect the ethos of those communities in making their appointment, indeed the appointee must come from within the community to which the parish belongs.

I do not particularly care one way or another whether my vicar does or does not conduct blessings of same sex partnerships. Nothing needs to be done. Keep cool and carry on as you are!

I want to be part of a parish which not only teaches celibacy outside of (heterosexual) marriage but which supports those who choose to be celibate and look for the support of their community of faith in being obedient to God in this way. That is not only possible, it is specifically provided for by the proposal: like-minded parishes including common commitment to teaching and discipline may group together in structured communities of faith, supported by a bishop.

Thus in a number of ways this is a beautiful, comprehensive Anglican  accommodation of the wide range of views on human sexuality held within ACANZP.

To be very clear: a beautiful Anglican accommodation does not mean that everyone is going to be, let alone has to be happy about what is proposed. There will be disappointment for some.

My argument here is that in a tricky, challenging situation in which we are not agreed, we have a proposal which has a quality of elegance to it, which demonstrates deep listening to speeches at the last General Synod and to submissions made to the Working Group, and, critically, a will to make some significant changes to the way we do things.

And all with a view to holding us together.

I hope this means no one leaves.

But if some do, I believe the losses will be few rather than many.

- for the geeks among readers, this is what I posted re the submission I made to the working group. You will see that a number of things I was keen to see are included in the report/recommendations. (That, incidentally, is not a claim that I had some great influence on the report. Once we failed to secure agreement at GS 2016 there was a logical path to where we needed to go as a church in disagreement, which influenced my submission and, I am sure, directly influenced the working group.)
- Also, Bosco Peters has a considered response here.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: the alt-world?

What do you make of Stanley Hauerwas in this article?

Not hard to agree with him that Trump is a challenge for America and an opportunity for the church.

And he is very perceptive in his insight that "Trump wants you to be in his reality show."

But is our task as Christians to witness to an alternative reality?

Yes and no, I reckon.

Yes, we witness to the way of love in a world of hate, to the ambition to put others first in a world of avarice and greed. Yes, we witness to the kingdom that is not of this world, which is both in this world and is coming to this world.

No, while we witness to an alternative reality, which, as far as it is in our power, we live out, we yet live in the world. In that world we might have to fight a war (whereas Hauerwas is a pacifist) or even lead a country. On the latter Hauerwas says,

"Can you be a faithful Christian and a president? Hauerwas said no, though he said some can come close.
'Good Christians get to run for office once. If they do the right thing they won't be re-elected.'"

I wonder if  Bush, Obama, Thatcher, Blair, and more locally, Lange, Bolger and now English got that memo?

This matter relates to discussion of my post below, about our cathedral in Christchurch, in which some have argued that the Diocese should eschew all government/council support, while I am arguing back that there is a case for thinking that the Diocese of Christchurch in the "world" of Christchurch (peculiar though it may be, given its peculiar Anglican history) may properly work with government/council on reinstating the cathedral (that is, it would not be theologically heretical for the Synod in September to make that decision, if it so chooses).

Back to Hauerwas and Trump. American Christians are in a huge dilemma. If a Christian supports Trump in all his Trumpiness (i.e. not just on the occasional occasion when he is actually correct), are they truly Christian? If  a Christian does not support Trump in all his Trumpiness, how do they support Trump as their duly elected President?. Romans 13 and all that

Back to our NZ election. Thankfully we have no Trumpian equivalent. Not even Winston Peters is in the same league as Trump in respect of his sheer maniacal goofiness (demonstrated at the recent G20 meeting). But we still have choices to make in terms of what our parties propose to shape the world in which we live.

Not all proposals in a country toying with euthanasia, beating a drum for marijuana law reform, hesitant about solving searing social problems and keen on intensifying cows per millilitre of river and spring water are equally Christian!

Good grief, in this morning's Press a reader may contemplate the possibility that "salvation" lies for regional economies in growing marijuana, a Green Party which calls NZ First racist yet is willing to be in government with this racist party, and courtesy of Jane Bowron's regular column, the latest moral dilemma in sexuality ... robotic sex dolls.

This pot pouri which makes up Western civilization in our Down Under corner of the world almost makes me consider what I ruled out in comments to last Monday's post ... not bothering to vote at all!!

Grounds for non-voting could be:
(a) It's just too hard to make a decision
(b) It won't make a difference to the largest issue facing the electorate: we are going to the dogs and no government is stopping our descent into corporate madness.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Game changer?

So, here's the thing. Until a couple of days ago the future of Christ Church Cathedral here in Christchurch seemed like an assessment of the merits of reinstatement with a large tens of millions (30-50m) fund shortfall to raise versus the merits of a new build cathedral, priced at under our $42m insurance proceeds (with a sum within the $42m allowed for future repairs, maintenance and insurance).

Then we had the announcement of a firmed up government offer ($10m plus $15m suspensory loan) plus a City Council offer ($10m, to be confirmed via public consultation), along with a clarified commitment from the GCBT fund-raisers ($13.7m). Fingers and thumbs, that is, $90.7m.

But is the total we need to reach $104m or $127m? The NZ Herald points us in the latter direction. Either way, the government would set up with CPT an independent fund-raising trust to get on with the job of raising funds. And the government would pass enabling legislation to fast track consenting requirements for the work to press ahead.

Incidentally, we could call the government offer a parliamentary offer because it has cross-party support: that is, no member of parliament is going to side with those who wish to see a new cathedral built. Our political masters, local and national, are batting for the one and the same side, singing from the same hymn sheet.

The question for our 7-9 September Synod, as we begin our pre-Synod meetings this week, is whether we now have a "game changer" influencing our deliberations.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Is this mid June 1914 for the Anglican Communion?

What to make of the this, that and the other of this Church Times report?

Is the Anglican Communion in the midst of the seemingly ad hoc, disconnected protests, skirmishes and sabre rattling which turn out to be the prelude to a "Great War"?

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: dilemmas

For some Christians I know, who happen to be Labour Party candidates in this year's election, I imagine the discernment of the "politics of Jesus" in relation to the politics of Aotearoa NZ is straightforward. To follow Jesus politically speaking is to vote Labour! Ditto for those Christians standing for National, the Maori Party, the Greens etc.

It does not seem so easy for me, a mere voter.

I find myself weighing up and worrying about (in no particular order of anxiety):
- National's obfuscatory handling of the Todd Barclay matter;
- National's reluctance to act decisively on house prices in our most populated city: is their membership over-subscribed with property speculators and landlords?
- Labour's inept handling of their overseas volunteers' call centre campaign (if they run the country like that ...);
- Labour's recently announced industrial relations policy which seems to me like a return to some very bad days for our economy;
- United Future as a party with way too much importance in decision-making relative to their virtually zero nationwide support;
- NZ First's bewildering array of positions on a variety of matters, most of which are clever clickbaits but not much else;
- every party's position on immigration (I appreciate this is a complex issue and every party is trying to get "the balance" on this matter right, but I find myself responding to the latest policy proposal with a "yeah, I think that misses a key point or two";
- several parties' critique of "neo-liberalism" (i.e. the general theoretical underpinning of our current economy) without offering an alternative which looks like it would actually work better than what it would replace.
- even worse, some of what I hear from some parties amounts to "loads more things in life should be free of charge" with an occasional follow up that the "rich should pay more tax." Spoiler alert: the better off among us already shoulder most of the tax burden.

What is a follower of Jesus to do in the voting booth on 23rd September?

I ask this question with particular reference to our "party vote." (With our local vote for an MP to represent our electorate there might be other considerations than those addressed in this post. We might, for instance, because we feel we know our local candidates better, wish to vote for a candidate because they are a Christian, or because they played rugby for our club, etc).

I would be interested in your views!

The following options strike me with respect to our party vote as theologically plausible (on the unquestioned-by-me presupposition that a Christian should vote):

Option A: choose one issue of great (theological) significance and vote for the party promising to do the right thing on that matter (and "hold your nose" re all other matters on which that party, if governing, might to the wrong thing). The Single Issue option.

Option B: survey many if not all issues of significance, perform a political calculation as to which party on balance is better than the others, and vote accordingly. The Pragmatic option.

Option C: pay little or no attention to what the issues are at this election but focus instead on each party's track record in terms of handling of matters, responding to issues of the day, etc. Then vote for the party that is likely to do the most good for the country/the poor/the worker/the sick/ business/environment. I assume, for example, that the Christians I know who are Labour Party candidates this year would not think each and every policy of the Labour Party was in accord with Christian values, but that they are committed to the Labour Party as the party which, on balance, will do the most good according to Christian values (fight for the underdog, tackle poverty, improve access to health, etc). I assume that Christians standing for National believe that in the long run everyone is better off if a strong economy is maintained and if people are encouraged to stand on their own two feet rather than depend on the state. The Arc of History option.

There is, as the intelligent and learned political scientists know, a fourth option, often favoured by Kiwis, at least at regular intervals ...

Option D: Give the Other Lot A Go.