Thursday, August 31, 2017

Does #NashvilleStatement help cohesion of Christian faith, stem moral tide ...? [UPDATED][x3]


Ian Paul weighs in here while picking up some judicious comment along the way.


Preston Sprinkle weighs in here.

Some stern reading here (Rabbi Sacks) and here (Dreher). We ignore these warnings at our peril.

Yet do either of those readings mean we should sign up to the Nashville Statement?

Dreher says Yes; Merritt says Meh.

My own view is that I won't sign. 

Not because I disagree broadly with the statement which is in line with a conservative, traditional understanding of Scripture on sexual morality. 

No, I won't sign because such a statement is not just about what we believe to be true, it is also about groups of minorities in our societies. 

Producing these kinds of statements, circulating them around the world, seeking signatures from church leaders strikes me as a form of bullying. Is it what Jesus would do?

Why, I ask plaintively, and not for the first or the last time, does such an approach singularly fail to also "target" those who remarry after divorce? 

Why can such statement producers not offer as great a clarity on remarriage after divorce as on homosexuality and gender transitions and indistinctions?

Dear Rod Dreher, a true prophet of today should ask, where is just, non-discriminatory treatment of all sexual sinners?

LATER: A very thoughtful, appreciative, but, nevertheless, I will not sign, response from Matthew Lee Anderson here.

One point he makes really skewers the statement:

"Even if the statement draws the boundary in the right place, then, it inherently and intentionally obscures the fact that whether evangelicals embrace the “spirit of our age” is not a decision before us: It is a decision that has been already made. A “secular spirit” manifests every time an evangelical pastor remarries someone who was divorced without cause. It comes to the surface every time an evangelical couple pursues in vitro fertilization, and so undoes the “God-ordained link” between the reproductive organs and the union of the couple’s love. Every time an evangelical couple “feels the Lord calling” them to surrogacy, there the “spirit of our age” appears. And yes, it happens every time an evangelical utters the damnable phrase, “Well, I’m an evangelical, which means I’m okay with contraception”—as though that were somehow a mark of evangelical identity. (I’ve run out of fingers trying to count the number of times I’ve heard that, from pastors and from laypeople.)"

UPDATE: And now this, from a celibate, gay Christian.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Beautiful Anglican Accommodation" comments' thread: continue here

Amazingly comments continue on my major post (last month) on the interim report of our GS working group on SSB.

That post is here.

If you want to keep commenting, please do so here and not there as it is becoming non-easy to connect with the latest comments there.

The most recent comments at the time of posting this are copied below. Before we get to them, a little reflection of my own:

And they say an Anglican house divided will not stand!

Readers from beyond Down Under may not understand how a mere 1200 miles of ocean (or Ditch) places no particular distance between NZ and Australia in terms of close interest in the doings of our neighbour (at least for Kiwis - no doubt many Australians think of us as the boring little brother or sister!). Cultural distance is another matter ...

So, over in Oz, there is a major and I mean major brouhaha about SSM. Even how a nation with a parliament and a postal system can decide what it collectively thinks and wants re SSM has been a brouhaha. That Kiwis sorted this years ago now with the minimum of fuss may reflect that cultural distance which is clearly wider than 1200 miles ...

Natch, Christians are at odds with each other on this matter, even as they are working out how beleagaured the Christian community at large is within a rapidly secularising Australia.

Fascinatingly, for this Anglican observer at least, even Catholics are at odds with each other, as this article indicates. And in quasi-Anglican terms: the gospel of love versus the law of God!

Here's the thing. Are we Christians/Anglicans/Catholics divided on a matter which is genuinely intractable, which involves deeply held convictions about deep matters of God (law/love)? If so, should we (A) be kind to each other, and (B) work out how we live with these differences rather than how we divide because of them? Let's face it, no matter how much we divide the denominational cake on this one, the whole Christian communities in Oz and NZ will remain Christian communities in which there is major difference over SSB/SSM!

MOST RECENT COMMENTS FROM ORIGINAL POST on Beautiful Anglican Accommodation

"Brendan McNeill said...

Dear Bowman and Bryden

An interesting insight into character formation, and the scripting we bring with us into life, and into our lived experience as Christians.

I wonder in the light of those thoughts, what you make of Romans 12:1-2:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I’m particularly interested in the aspect of ‘being transformed by the renewing of your mind’ – how do you suggest that takes place? While I have my own views, I’d be interested in yours.

Secondly, Paul implies that renewal of ones mind is not an automatic process that follows salvation, that it appears to involve some agency or choice on the part of the believer. Thoughts?

Third, when someone undertakes the renewing of their mind and therefore begins to approve of God’s good and perfect will, should we think it strange if their teaching and example did not begin to eventually comply at least somewhat more closely to the example of Jesus, and the testimony of Scripture?

To me this passage of Scripture appears to have considerable bearing upon the matter in question, not in regard to how God views same sex anything, but rather how we view it.
Father Ron Smith said...
Thankyou, Bowman, for your reminder of 'inherited prejudice', which may - or may not - be pastorally considered as a hindrance to the formation of a valid conscience. One excellent example of this was Saint Paul's need of 'conversion', from his formation under the Jewish Tradition - into the grace-filled understanding of Christianity.

One suspects that some of the failings he was able to confess in his newly-acquired conscience - but which he accepted were subsumed into the redemption of Jesus - were mystically dealt with as part of his journey into the Kingdom of God. Thus: "Thanks be to God for the victory in Christ Jesus"
Bryden Black said...
Well Brendan (1/2); you have picked, what for me, is an absolutely seminal pair of verses. Only the likes of Jn 1:14 and 3:16 might compare in density and significance.

First off, I see you have chosen the NIV translation, which has “in view of God’s mercy”. A nice rendering, given these two verses constitute the fulcrum [what’s the “therefore” there for?!] of the entire letter, coming after the fulsome presentation of “Paul’s Gospel” (16:25), which forms chs 1-11. The conclusion of these chapters may be viewed as 11:32.

“I urge” [compare other EVV translations]: Paul often presents his more theological material first, followed by his “hortatory” section, given the second is, in his view, the natural consequence arising out of the first. The ground/basis (of his appeal) comes first; then the appeal itself second.

His “appeal”/“exhortation” is addressed to those whom he knows to be his family in the Lord Jesus, the Household of God - “brothers and sisters” - who share in common the Holy Spirit. We are all in this together; but only so on account of God’s gift and doing, his Grace/Mercy.

“Offer”/“present”: classic Jewish sacrificial language. And what is so offered up is first off most concrete - as befits an Incarnational belief, and the God of Creation. Yet this entire first verse also leads back directly to ch.1 and vv.18ff. There the matter was “false worship”, worship of the creature(s) rather than the Creator (v.25); and the result of such “folly” (v.22) furthermore involves both “hearts” and “bodies”, which will be taken up directly in 12:1-2. Note too “desire” (1:24): Augustine will make much of this human trait, since in his schema the entire point is to desire the God who made us and yet we stupidly seek after instead false objects of worship. I.e. he beautifully paraphrases Paul.

In the OT, “sacrifices” were slaughtered naturally, and so dead (or were vegetable); now, since we Christians are both dead and resurrected in Christ Jesus (Rom 6), we’re able truly to offer our very lives - that supreme gift of God, the Living God, Who Is, is returned to its Source.
Yet here too Augustine (in a sermon) plays delightfully: “the trouble with being a living sacrifice is that it has a habit of crawling off the altar!”

“Holy”: anything given over unto God, as we Christians should now be, was considered holy in the OT.

The “aroma/odour” of any burnt sacrifice in the OT was often described as smelling pleasant or pleasing to God. Cf. 2 Cor 2:14-17.

All of which response ‘accords well’ with what we should be doing: creatures are meant to worship their Creator (Rev 4 & 5). This response is the most “logical/rational”, consistent reaction to what chs 1-11 have displayed: the phrase “true and proper” is thus one translation; another is “spiritual”. And “worship” is one of a pair often used: leitourgia = bringing of offerings or performing ceremonial services; latreia, as here = worship/service of God.
Bryden Black said...
2/3. The neat thing about v.2 is that it echoes delightfully and in passing the NT Catechism. See Eph 4:(17-) 20-24, with v.23 directly paralleling Rom 12:2. [See now my God’s Address—Living with the Triune God: A Scripture Workbook in the Style of Manuduction to Accompany The Lion, the Dove, & the Lamb (Wipf & Stock, 2017).] I.e. v.2 compresses an inordinate amount into its full and real meaning - if we but knew it and heard the full echo that Paul is wanting us to invoke.

“Conformed to this age/world”: adding the word “pattern” in your translation brings out the Greek verb nicely. All that is opposed to God comprises an entire “scheme” - in both senses of that word. And here there’s often a real difficulty. Many folk are simply blind to the fact that there IS such a ‘world’ which is against God (back to 1:21-22 again). This “period” of history in which we currently live as humans consists of two opposing ‘worlds’, or ‘schemata’, one which is under God’s Kingdom and another which opposes his Rule. Cf. Col 1:12-14. The NT simply makes no sense apart from this Apocalyptic dualism. Now; of course it’s pretty fashionable to discount such a scheme of things in the modern, secular West. The world is the world is the world; and that’s all there is to it. And furthermore, it’s but a natural evolutionary process ... This is one enormous temptation for Western Christians. Nor do I sense many of us have managed to quite reconcile either the natural sciences or the social sciences with our Christian Faith very well. The history of theology these past 200 years is instructive. Indeed; I fancy much of what passes for discussion on That Topic has its roots right here.

Next. I write this in God’s Address re Eph 4:20-24. “This archetypal pairing of putting off the old and putting on the new (see too Col 3:1–14), “in the power of the Spirit” (Rom 8:13), via the “renewing of the spirit of the mind”, may be likened to a pair of scissors. Such an instrument is made up of three things: a pair of opposing blades, and a rivet holding them together. This crucial pivot, with a similar contrast of old and new, is exactly what Paul presents again at the turning point of his magisterial Romans, 12:1–2.”

“Mind”: technically, this word nous had uses in popular mysticism and philosophy, as a specific faculty that engaged such things. Paul may or may not be thinking of this here. Overall, the point is clear enough: our ‘human control centre’ is to engage with the significance of what has happened on account of the Gospel, both externally, objectively in history itself, and to each and every Christian by way of their conversion and incorporation into Christ Jesus, Who in Himself, is the New Age. Once more, this ensures our response is “consistent with” the Gospel (as in the last part of v.1). Yet this “transformation” is no instant thing; it is continuous in this current ‘world’. Cf. 2 Cor 3:18. Our “walk in the Spirit”, who does this transformation work within us, is an ongoing business (Gal 5:25, Rom 8:9-13). My most fulsome experience of the sort of thing envisaged here has been my exposure to the work and ministry of Leanne Payne. Her Pastoral Care Ministries and now, after her retirement and death, the Ministry of Pastoral Care Schools were/are quite extraordinary. They are a special and almost unique expression of what this “transformation” is all about, I warrant. And they surely address the very sorts of things Bowman is raising by way of “invincible ignorance”, etc. Actually, firstly, in the power of the Risen Jesus, such things prove to be NOT invincible, although seemingly, previously they might have appeared so; they are also brought to light/into the Light, and so become “known” - as they were always in God’s Sight anyway. And I’m also referring to intergenerational stuff as well ...
Bryden Black said...

“Then”: so that, the purpose and goal of all this. “Test and approve” unpacks the double sense of the Greek: both prove and approve; approve, having first tested; both discerning that will and then of course following it faithfully, obediently.

And of course such a divine will is three things in this context. For God himself is always “good” and just; and such goodness (of God and God’s purposes) pleases him, brings God pleasure and joy; “perfect” is also “mature/complete” (as in Matt 5:48), and so naturally rounds everything off. There is always a point to all that God does and is!

This running commentary, Brendan, has already begun to address your subsequent questions. These verses are absolutely seminal, as I say, regarding the Christian life in general, and so should be able to bring MUCH LIGHT TO BEAR upon our present Anglican dilemmas. They also govern both confessors and their supplicants, in my experience. To summarize therefore. Christians are sanctified by the patient ministry of word-and-sacrament; by private and corporate prayer; by consistent and persistent “acts of mercy” in their ministry and mission in and to and for the world. Via all these things the Holy Spirit conforms us to the Image of Christ Jesus. I wrote God’s Address as an explicit answer both to making things Trinitarian operational, and to guide folk into reading Scripture via a Trinitarian lens - in a Trinitarian vein, as I say. That very ‘reading’ leads most naturally to an entire set of other things (as the workbook also lays out). For the Triune God works in those Ways he has clearly laid out for us in his written Word. It’s only a case of learning (as a disciple!!) ‘How’ to ‘Read’, and so how to “Perform” such a ‘reading’. The trick is ever becoming a practised, virtuoso performer, following the score of the text of the Word (written and Personal) in the power of the Spirit, unto the Father’s Glory.
Brendan McNeill said...
Hi Bryden

Thank you for taking the time to make a such a comprehensive response to my question. I agree that they are pivotal verses in helping us understand the process of transformation God seeks to undertake in the mind and the life of the believer.

I agree with the ‘two kingdoms’ understanding of the environment we inhabit, and the battle that is ever present for the hearts and minds of the believer, and ultimately Christ’s Bride, the Church.

Yes, to submitting our bodies as a living sacrifice, and our minds to the transforming power of God’s Word and his Holy Spirit. I am unaware of the life and ministry of Leanne Payne, however she has clearly had a significant impact upon you. The teaching and ministry of Derek Prince had a similar impact on my life as a new believer (and beyond). He came to Christchurch at least once, and had a powerful ministry in the spirit as well as the Word. Many were healed and delivered from demons in his meetings as I recall.

I appreciate that you have also added the sacraments to the Word and the Spirit. This is an emphasis I have begun to appreciate more since my involvement in the Anglican church. Ron, if you are reading this, then I’m sure that will please you!

Over the years, I have had the privilege of seeing many people’s lives transform through the process you have outlined, albeit maybe not as well understood as you have expressed. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 4:20 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (NIV). Surely, this is the transforming power at work in Romans 12:1-2.

Anonymous said...
Warm thanks to you, Brendan, for another fascinating comment. Your questions at 5:52 are so close to my heart that I have for years considered blogging somewhere about them alone. I will answer tomorrow, as it takes time to write a concise reply. If the result is not also brief, I will post it to a more current thread where Blogger is less likely to inconvenience Peter by misplacing it.

Bowman Walton
August 30, 2017 at 3:36 AM "

Monday, August 28, 2017

Australian Anglican Wisdom

Look, its really only in how to play winning rugby and how to retain prime ministers that Oz lacks wisdom. Within the Anglican Church of Australia, there is wisdom, and here is ++Philip Freier expressing it in relationship to You Know What.

Seriously, taking the Bible literally is harder than taking it allegorically. Figuratively speaking!

Excellent post here by Ian Paul at Psephizo, responding to a recently published ancient Bible commentary and some remarks made thereunto.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Robed Anglican Mission? (2)

Do robes help or hinder Anglican mission? Previously I argued that robes are not required by Christ's mission in which we share. They are beneficial rather than necessary for the mission of God.

A basic point about robing is that it is a form of uniform, with the uniform being influenced by robing through the previous centuries rather than, say, by negotiating with a uniform making factory and offering a cheap, hardwearing form of overalls with appropriate logos on the back.

What I think we are seeing, at least in Western cultures, is that Anglicans are finding two ways to be in mission in respect of people encounters where the question to robe or not arise.

One way is through providing familiar forms of worship which fit with expectations within our cultures about how the church should be and about where God might be encountered. Hence robed clergy, choirs, etc, leading traditional forms of liturgy (by which I mean, using words agreed by common synodical decision). Even in a post-Christian world, there are plenty of images of the church provided by TV and movies, most of which involve some pastiche of traditional Christianity in which the Vicar (English scenes) or the priest (American scenes) are robed up in order to lead a wedding (of hero and heroine) or a funeral (of some Mobster crook!). I say "pastiche" because the words used seem to be a mix of Catholic, Anglican and scriptwriters made up wording!

Another way is through providing forms of worship less familiar from TV screens and more familiar for those brought up in churches geared to informal worship. There may be some use of agreed liturgical wording, but the general approach is for the leader to lead spontaneously, using, for instances, rapport rather than responses to make connection between front of house and audience in pews or, more likely, individual seats. In this form of worship, which is quite widespread across the Western Anglican world, wearing robes is out of sorts with this informal genre.

I like to wear a suit and will happily wear one to certain kinds of meals (a formal dinner etc). But I am a fish out of water if I wear a suit to a friend's barbecue. Such an informal meal is best suited (bad pun, I know) to jeans and t-shirt.

But, if you agree with me, that both styles of worship have their place in an Anglican church which has a missional outlook - which seeks to be accessible for people searching for God via attendance at a worship service - we have a small rubrical problem, at least here in NZ.

For nowhere in our prayer books do we find any words which effectively say "Dress for the occasion." We just talk about what robes to wear.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What Would Jesus Do? A Guide For Troubled Conservatives!

My eye was struck by article in the Press this morning. I can't find that precise article on the internet but here is a close relative. About that jokey but now EXTREMELY SERIOUS question, for some Catholics at least, Is the Pope a Catholic?

I notice a certain cunning in the way some public comment is circulating in conservative Catholic circles: really, there hasn't been a "proper" Pope since Pius XII in the 1950s. Clever deflection from making it all about Francis or looking like wistfulness for Benedict. But I don't recall this angst running through the college of cardinals during the reigns of Pius' successors. Only the SSPX rose to that particular improper pope anxiety. Otherwise it was mutterings about Vatican 2.

Of course the specific issue today is Francis' intransigent ambiguity on eucharist for the remarried divorcees. On the one hand I get it that there is a logic to Roman teaching on marriage and eucharist, with the "get out of jail" card called Annulment, which proscribes reception of the host by one who, according to that logic is a continuing adulterer. On the other hand, I do not see many Kiwi Catholics particularly discomforted by Francis' pastoral approach to the matter. Nor, of course, is there a lot of evidence these days of assiduous adherence to Humanae Vitae.

In short, Francis may be canonically wrong but pastorally attuned to the life situation of the laity.

I continue to think about these things, including preparing for a recent opportunity to teach on 1 Corinthians 5-7.

My simple question concerns what Jesus himself would do in this situation. That, surely, is worth examining while reiterating the canons and reviewing whether the Pope is Catholic.

Briefly, I cannot get from Jesus in, say, Luke 7:36-50, or John 8:1-11, to the rigor of discipline that offers no repentance for the divorced and remarried person (save for strict celibacy within marriage) and no share in the eucharist. And I still cannot find Annulment as a way round Jesus or Paul's teaching on divorce.

In those few sentences I am not pretending to have advanced a case to overturn the full weight of canonical, catechetical teaching (as if ...) but I wonder if those sentences might take us to the heartbeat of Francis?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Confession and repentance, critical to eucharist

Excellent post here on the importance of confession and repentance before participating in communion. Starring a couple of leading folk who are not actually Anglican ... but could be, by virtue of what they say!

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: which party supports you?

The other day I heard about a site called "I side with" (NZ election version here).

It helps people like me who get too concerned about personalities (English, Ardern, Flavell, Fox, yay; Winston Peters, nay) to focus on policy. By answering the questions, the site (having predigested policy statements) lets you know which party fits your views best.

Now, the other day when I first took the quiz, it came up with one set of answers. On Saturday I revised my answers in a few cases and also found a whole lot of new questions (participants can suggest new questions). This was what was returned:

So, on the one hand, this is not terrifically helpful to me, because of the closeness of scores for the first five parties. Intriguingly I have the Greens and ACT scoring pretty closely, even though they are generally poles apart on policy!

On the other hand, given that my answers are unlikely to be significantly different from most Christians (a bit morally conservative, fiscally responsible, environmentally friendly, refugee and immigrant welcoming, etc) it is illuminating how many choices a Christian has in this election about which party is broadly supportive of Christian values in respect of politics.

I will keep thinking, evaluating, discerning. I am sure you will too. And I will take the I side with quiz again before 23 September 2017!

Monday, August 14, 2017

New Option for Synod re Christchurch Cathedral

Our Synod will be considering a third option. Stuff carries a report here. Taonga reports here.

Option A = reinstatement
Option B = new build
Option C = give the cathedral to the government (i.e. to the people of New Zealand).

I have pulled out of proposing the motion to the Synod because I do not support Option C and could not speak in favour of it. (I am quite happy with reinstatement or a new cathedral so could speak in favour of both as the motion originally proposed.)

This week we have three Area meetings in order to discuss this new development (along with some other late Synod business).

I may or may not post my reasons for opposing Option C subsequent to those meetings.

You may or may not wish to comment here on Options A or B or C (or propose D ...)

Dean of Christ Church in Christchurch

These past few days Dean Martyn Percy of Christ Church, Oxford (college, cathedral) has been visiting Christchurch, NZ, with his wife Emma Percy.

I was lucky to hear Martyn speak four times - two lectures, Evensong sermon last evening and a seminar following. Across these talks, Martyn displayed scholarship, theological acumen, insight into cultural change, and a general flair for putting things in such a way that made us - certainly me - think.

We do not often have theologians of such calibre in our neck of the woods, so it has been a treat.

Martyn is a Tweeter and a story of his visit, via photographs and brief comments on Twitter can be found here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

More Down Under Views on Marriage, and more notes from England

From Auckland, and from what could be called the progressive wing of our church, Helen Jacobi, Vicar of St Matthews-in-the-City, offers her view on the working group proposal. SPOILER ALERT: Helen's view is polar opposite to "beautiful accommodation"! Please discuss her response on her site so she can directly engage with your comments. I will not accept comments here which directly engage with what she has written.

Belatedly, I have discovered that, from Christchurch, Bryden Black, regular commenter here, has posted a response to the proposal on the AFFIRM website, here. As it requires a Log In to make comments there, and because Bryden is a regular reader here, I am prepared to take comments which directly engage with his post. SPOILER ALERT: Bryden is uncertain whether it is a "beautiful accommodation" or not!

Then from England:

Thinking Anglicans notices what is going on here.

From the TA site I draw your attention to a Church Times article about what is being proposed.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Two Down Under Views on Marriage, note from England

So, over in the West Island, things are reaching boiling point re whether there will or will not be a postal referendum, referendum, parliamentary bill, agreed to by senate or not, on, you know, that thing we in NZ actually managed to decide in a comparatively peaceful and orderly manner, same-sex marriage. But this is not time to boast. [That can wait till next Saturday night :).] Frankly, I am a bit confused. I think I understand one point: proponents of same-sex marriage are against a referendum on the matter, but not because a referendum (postal or otherwise) will go against change to the status quo, but because the accompanying debate will be full of homophobia.

Anyway, any Ozzie light shed on the matter of the politics of same-sex marriage, is welcome here, but what I do see in the public domain are two presentations on marriage, the existence of both views highlighting that Australian Christians are not agreed on what constitutes marriage.

One is by Jason Goroncy, a Baptist/Presbyterian theologian: A Christian theology of marriage.

The other is by Michael Jensen: I oppose same-sex marriage (and no, I am not a bigot).

I am citing these articles here, partly for possible future reference, partly because they represent for me some fine, careful Christian thinking about marriage. Yet, in my view, neither is completely satisfactory! Briefly, Goroncy omits discussion of Genesis 1-2; Jensen does not recognise the possibility that there is a distinction between 'contractual' marriage and 'conjugal' marriage, which in turn means it is possible for parliaments to change the terms of the former (as it often does re any law concerning contracts) while leaving untouched the permanent terms of the latter. (See, e.g. this book).

Finally, a note from the Church of England, from the Church of England Evangelical Council in particular, via Thinking Anglicans, here. Clearly some positioning is going on with respect to how the future might work out, following the recent General Synod of the CofE, which somewhat meekly bent itself in a progressive direction without, seemingly, much resistance from conservatives.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: martyred by the media?

This election is becoming truly messy. Less than ten days ago we had key opposition leaders, Andrew and deputy Jacinda (Labour), and Metiria as one of the Greens' co-leaders. Now Jacinda and deputy Kelvin have replaced Andrew and Jacinda for Labour. Metiria is gone this afternoon from her Greens co-leadership role. Just this morning I listened to her give a very good interview on Morning Report, calmly telling the world she was going nowhere.

Now, no one is sorry for Andrew Little. Performing badly in the polls, he had to go. And Jacinda taking over is absolutely the right and correct thing because in the first poll since those bad polls, she has added some 10% to Labour's figures, putting them into the mid 30s for the first time, well, it seems for ever, and some 20% to her own personal figure as preferred PM, coming in a msidgeon under Bill English's figure.

But Metiria? Despite TV3 trumpeting otherwise tonight, that their poll drove her out, Radio NZ claims the credit, citing a disgruntled family member, aghast at Metiria's "fake news" about her personal situation some 25 years ago. Either way, a theme in Twitter tonight is that she is a martyr for the cause of poor beneficiaries in NZ, and the media have cruelly hounded her from parliament. Others are not at all sad. Seemingly ignoring the other lying, dissembling politicians around NZ and the world (Hi, Donald!), to say nothing of all those white, male, business fraudsters who seem to stay out of jail for amounts of other people's money far in excess of what Metiria would have defrauded the taxpayer, they see Metiria as getting what she deserves. Or will do when she is charged by the authorities for her self-admitted fraud.

It is easy to be aggressively against Metiria - her story has become complicated compared to its initial simplicity and heartstrings' appeal. And it seems to have involved less than full honesty in the present, whatever confession of dishonesty in the past it may have involved: was the 1990s situation for the Turei family actually one of desperation about feeding a child, or simply desperation for financial stability? But is that temptation to cast stones of condemnation and criticism something a Christian should resist? We are called to not judge, to not cast stones, to forgive. We are called to side with the poor, to work for justice and to challenge the rich lest they make their wealth a millstone around their necks.

I agree with Finlay Macdonald that some political foolishness on Metiria and her party bosses' part has occurred, but I admire Metiria for her courage in drawing attention to the hard time poor people have, both beneficiaries and those on low wages.

Temptations to cheat "the system" must be extraordinary when you are anxious about feeding your children. Temptations to take a loan from loan sharks to help one's children - perhaps with sports fees or new shoes or a treat on a birthday - must be difficult to resist. It is all very well saying that if the beneficiaries are not poor relative to workers then there will be no incentive to work, but does "the system" have to ask so many intrusive questions of people who, in many cases, have not made a career choice to become a beneficiary.

Mind you, a national conversation about whether we treat the poor in NZ well should also ask whether, just possibly, a rogue few beneficiaries rorting that system have contributed to ever increasing rules, regulations and restrictions on all beneficiaries?

But, my sense, prompted by Metiria Turei's brave but ultimately tragic step into the limelight, is that we taxpayers might ask whether we could more generously support our government loosening the purse strings and loosening the ropes of regulations in order to be a fairer society. Is there any particular reason why Christians should not be pushing that conversation along?

An irony of the messy situation our election season is experiencing, in my view, is that Metiria Turei asked questions which are the natural provenance of the Labour Party and they, in tonight's poll, are (bad pun) the beneficiaries of her work.

I wonder, conversely, whether the Greens will question themselves over what has become a debacle for them. Their natural provenance is care for the environment. The Lord of creation knows we need a huge kick up the behind on that score. (Anyone in Canterbury travelled up to Hanmer recently, and observed the preparations for dairying on Ngai Tahu land just north of the Hurunui River? Where are all those nitrates going to run to? Hint: it will be downhill towards the river and not uphill towards the mountains).

The Greens are our conscience on that matter, and very good at it too. And, in my view, they should be available to be that environmental conscience for any left or right government. Their combination of Marxism and ecology has kept them in opposition every year they have had members in parliament. Time for a divorce? Marx won't mind remarrying Labour. Developing businesses in a clean environment is a tough, complex problem ($15 cabbages, anyone?). It would be good for NZ if the Greens focused solely on that.

Finally, in really great news, New Zealand First dropped in the poll tonight.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Confession is good for the soul [UPDATED]

An internet joy is finding posts which illuminate the human condition or shed light on what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ.

Two read by me recently are by Ron Hay (superb Kiwi writer) and ++Rowan Williams (not a Kiwi, but we won't hold that against him). Both are somewhat confessional pieces.

A Special Spiritual Memoir

A marriage of war and peace

The first, by Ron Hay, but drawing on Lewis Smedes, challenges any simple adherence to the beautifully coherent but quite wrong theology of Calvin. Smedes offers a beautiful confession of his faith.

The second, by ++Rowan Williams, reviewing a volume of published letters by Lev and Sonya Tolstoy, challenges any simple adherence to an otherwise greatly gifted human being, no matter what spiritual illumination they offer. Williams offers a confession that saintly figures in the church are not actually saintly (if by that we mean closer to perfection than we are).

Why not also mention this lovely story of our latest female bishop, Ellie Sanderson's conversion!

This lovely interview and obituary by Peter Fitzsimons, my favourite atheist sports journalist and general opinionist. Yeah, I know he is an Aussie! But here he writes about one of the great Aussie sportswomen.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Which Peter is muddled in his moderate thinking?

What do you think?

Archbishop Peter Jensen has written a stirring, well argued, impeccably logical article entitled "The Mythical Middle."

It is completely obvious that he has another Peter in his sights. :)

Especially with his concluding sentence:

"Be careful of the Mythical Middle – it is in fact a Misleading Muddle!"

But I am wondering if ++Peter is as muddled as that other Peter.

I say that because ++Peter seems to think that a church cannot entertain lots of moderates in a middling if not muddling position. It is bound to end in disaster, seems to be the implication of what he writes.

But when he writes these words below, I feel he is an accurate, sympathetic historian of a certain church I know well, which has lasted with its over population of muddled moderates for centuries!

"In this way, you can avoid being ‘an extremist’. Of course, ‘extremist’ is such an ugly word that no one wishes to accept the label.  We much prefer to have the good judgement that enables us to be in the middle of any dispute, seeing the good on both sides but not turning the argument into a matter of mutually exclusive choice between two options.
Notice how the strategy of creating a false middle occurs. It appeals to the natural human desire to be supposedly rational in thought, calm, and fair. There is a belief that the truth in any matter is not at either ‘extreme’, but inevitably in the middle and if we occupy the middle ground we cannot go too far wrong.People with a product to sell often play off this instinct.  They don’t offer us two sizes of coffee cup – they offer three, knowing that most of us will choose the middle and pride ourselves on being moderate. What they do not tell us is that the middle choice suits them commercially as this is where the best profit margin will be.But it is not just in buying and selling. How many times are we told even in Christian communications that we have a choice between the over-emphasis of one side and the over-emphasis of another and that if we stick to the convenient middle, all will be well? Think. What if the truth is actually on the boundary and not in the middle?  What if there is no middle, but the choice is binary, and the middle is a mythical middle?For example, imagine a denomination in which some ministers teach that Jesus was a merely good man and others teach that he is both true God and true man. Where is the moderate, middle view here? Would it be to say that Jesus is divine but not fully God? We can hear all the arguments in favour of this moderate position – but we know that it is actually heretical.By using the word ‘extremist’ for those who hold a strong point of view, who make a stand, we excuse ourselves from the need to think, to make a decision, to act. Or we give ourselves permission to bless what God calls sin because it is not the most extreme form of such an activity. Or we acquiesce without protest in the activities of others doing this, in our name."
Incidentally, after I drafted the above, I came across notice of this extraordinary John McArthur recipe for responding to a gay child. Is this the logical extension of ++Peter's non-muddled approach to sexuality?

ADDED LATER: The implication of ++Peter's GAFCON piece is that churches of like pure mindedness should stick together. But, here's the thing, no Anglican church is perfectly pure. Here is a disturbing report of a GAFCON province, the Anglican Church of Kenya, being found to have sacked priests without evidence for the canonical crime for which they were assumed guilty.

Friday, August 4, 2017

You have been warned

Understanding the state of things where people are involved is a very tricky business. That is an eternal truth and a global truth!

For Christians there is the added challenge of understanding who we are as Christian people, who we are in the midst of the society in which God has planted us, and what, if any, is the role we might play in the transformation of that society, or, indeed, ourselves as God's people.(An alternative being that we apathetically leave all change in the hands of God, or, only engage with the possibility of change via a strict life of active prayer and non-engagement with any other activism).

Into such musing we might read Ross Douthat (H/T Bowman Walton) who is a remarkable NYT columnist, never not worth reading!

This column focuses on American Catholicism and the Vatican's understanding of it. But it is not rocket science to make a translation into the Australian and New Zealand Down Under contexts. Especially in this week of the remarkable phenomenon of religion creeping into our Kiwi politics ... I refer to the various scapegoats roundabouts and to the extraordinary exercise in hagiography which our media embarked on when the Labour Party elected a new leader on Tuesday!

Thus Ross Douthat warns us to sharpen our thinking, to accurately discern the signs of the times and to do our research so that we can speak truthfully about the state of things where people are involved.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Update on Beautiful Anglican Accommodation Post

1. I discovered this morning some comments that had not been published (to various recent posts, including the "beautiful" Anglican accommodation post, 11 July 2017) ... now published.

2. That accommodation post is now "below the fold" and it may help you to get there by posting the link here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: what a difference a day makes! [UPDATED]

Wow. That old saying, A Week Is A Long Time In Politics, re-truthed this week as a couple of bad polls confirm that our Labour Party has been polling badly, and Andrew Little - bless him, decent man that he is - fell on his sword, stepped down as leader and nominated the obvious successor, Jacinda Ardern, to succeed him. Bang. Labour has a relatively inexperienced leader but a photogenic one (don't minimise the importance of that in our televisual age) and, much more importantly, a brilliant performer in the media. Jacinda is an eloquent, thinking quickly on her feet star and it is right and proper that she now leads the only serious alternative party of governance in our land. If Labour do not lead the government on 24 September 2017, they will do after the election in 2020. You can pretty much bet your house on that.

But what does all this mean for Christians contemplating who to vote for in this year's election? I suggest it means very little(bad pun!). While it matters that we have competent leadership, what matters more is what ideology drives the government of the day and thus what we theologically make of that ideology. Policy substance is more important for Christians electing a government than personality.

Sure, Jacinda may now make a play for some policy change that she wants to emphasise and to sell with her own cheerful ("relentlessly positive"), pleasing manner. But we should determine whether we will vote for the Labour Party on its policy first and on its leadership secondly. Ditto other parties.

I have my own views on what Labour Party policy would mean for our country if elected. Ditto other parties. My choice and yours is not much different today than yesterday. But it might be a little bit different in this way: if we reckon each party's policies are a mix of good, bad and indifferent, and if we reckon they are all (pluses and minuses added up) equally good or bad or simply indifferent, then it would be right and proper to think about the style of leadership of our future government. The "Jacinda-effect" might then kick in. So might, and especially for Christians, the Bill English effect (that he is a committed Christian and public with it).

On one matter of leadership I am prepared to be very public in my views about leadership: there are no circumstances in which I think Winston Peters would be a good Prime Minister for Aotearoa New Zealand (as some are calculating might happen). Of all the things a country might appreciate in its human leader, maverick tendencies are not one. Need I point you in a certain north-eastern direction to remind what a disaster having a maverick for a leader is?

UPDATE: I find my blogging colleague, Michael Reddell, at Croaking Cassandra makes a lot of sense here as he gives Jacinda Ardern and her party advice which could help elect them AND more importantly, help a huge number of Kiwis!