Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and Last Post for a While

Dear Readers,

Thank you for reading this year. Thank you for commenting.
If nothing else has been achieved by my blogging and interacting with your comments, my own thinking has been sharpened up!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year :)

In accordance with a very ancient ADU tradition, I won't post again until sometime into the New Year. We will all be fresher for a break. And I have some very exciting reading to do: thrillers and theologies ... if the latter don't inspire some 2018 posts what will?

PS We were given a "Google Assistant" today for a present ... wow! I think I will be posting about AI, robots, and techno-persons-at-the-dinner-table in 2018.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Will "Christmas" collapse as a cultural celebration in the West?

A thought popped into my head recently. As they occasionally do.

Will the cultural insanity of Christmas (shopping, parades, decorations, work festivities, community festivities, family festivities) implode?

Will the implosion come when we wake up as a secular society and ask ourselves what we are celebrating? Many will not know. Some will remember a connection with the Birth of Christ. Will the collapse be hastened when those who so remember think to themselves, "This is nuts. 20??* years after his birth, WHY are we celebrating his birth when we never think about him on the other 364 days of the year?" (*I am predicting this will happen sometime this century.)

As sometimes happens with popped in one's head thoughts occur, I noticed a couple of related items on the internet.

One - don't know where now - was an observation that in 19th century England, Christmas as a social festival was waning. Then Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, revived it and the rest, thanks to Disney and Coca Cola, is the history of modern Christmas. My point: what has been revived can yet die.

Two - this article posted on Stuff recently. While the point of the article is not quite my question-come-point, it is pretty close to it, especially with the sentence in the headline, "Christmas has had its day."

Now, not to misunderstand, what might happen.

Here Down Under, 25 December is near the end of the calendar year and the beginning of the major summer holiday period. I am not envisaging Christmas and Boxing Day ceasing to be public holidays (which will be helpful for Christians who will keep wanting to worship the Christ-child on Christmas Day). Nor am I envisaging "end of year" festivities ceasing in schools, work places and so forth: the events of the past year are worth celebrating and giving thanks for. But maybe singing Christmas carols or at least having the music of carols in the background will stop featuring at these events.

But I am envisaging a time when the commercialism which drives Christmas, focused on "gifts" (and the tradition of "gifts" which sends people to the shops), but also fuelling parades and decorating streets, collapses. It could happen pretty quickly when a few people ask themselves why gift giving is associated with the end of the year. There is no association (other than, say, thank you gifts to those whose service through the year we have appreciated).

It is not as though children do not have another annual occasion on which to receive gifts (their birthdays). It certainly is the case that adults repeatedly ask themselves why they give and receive completely useless things!! Once that asking translates into sufficient numbers saying "Let's not give gifts. Let's put the money into more booze and chocolates", the cultural Christmas of 21st century Western societies is over. Unless there is a 21st century Dickens ...

We manage to celebrate Easter with public holidays, festive food and no fanfare in the streets. I am prophesying the same for Christmas Down Under!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Reading for 2018?

I heard someone on the radio the other day bemoaning Twitter because he looks at his Twitter feed when he wakes up and moves from calm to anger in 30 seconds.

Not me.

I must subscribe to different Twitter buddies :)

One thing I do love about Twitter is the way it leads to treasure troves of ideas.

One I want to share here is a very intriguing list of books to read.

It is Ben Myers' "Most Interesting Books I Read in 2017" but we can recycle it as "Books to Read in 2018." OK. Unless we read them like Ben in 2017 :)

Ben is an Australian theologian and he seems like the best kind of theological teacher, as you can read here.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Cathedral Progress

Bit by bit things are falling into place for the reinstatement of our cathedral.

Read here.

This time next year, I wonder what physical progress we will be able to report?

I suppose that will depend on fund$$$raising progress :)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

My Book of the Year 2017

It is getting towards the end of 2017 so it must be time for "Book of the Year".

What is yours?

Mine is both highly recommended and very affordable. Also, if you get the Kindle version, instantly accessible!

It is:

Written by one of the world's leading Pauline scholars and author of the best "thick" book on Paul in recent years, this quickly read book is neatly divided in two parts, The History and The Legacy.

In a relatively few words the reader receives a summary of Paul's writings, a summary of Pauline scholarship, and numerous insights into that Paul's writings mean for the world today.

This award has nothing to do with a very nice lunch I had with John at the annual Aotearoa New Zealand Association for Biblical Studies in Dunedin recently :). 

Seriously, it was a great privilege for all conferees to attend to a presentation John gave on Paul's theology of gift. We sat at the feet of a modern master!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Upstream: incarnation

There is no salvation without God embodying us, without the Word becoming flesh. Becoming one of us as well as one with us, Jesus the Son of God assumed the burden of our sin and guilt and dying on the cross made the one, full, final, complete, sufficient sacrifice for the sin of the world. The death we should die, the human-God experienced instead, for our sakes. Without this incarnation there would be no Christian faith, Christian hope or Christian love. Upstream of all Christian theology - of all talk about the God we meet in Jesus Christ - is the incarnation.

This also applies to Anglican theology!

Also, it is Advent, so a good seasonal time to talk about incarnation :)

Here, on this blog, a particular interest is in what theology means for our life in the world. So an "upstream" interest in the incarnation is simultaneously a "downstream" interest in working out how we live as Christians, as Anglican-shaped Christians.

Might that mean, I ask here, since the "downstream" interest is in life in the 21st century situation and not in the 1st century situation, that we should think about what the incarnation might involve in this century?

That is, what kind of man would Jesus be if he were incarnated in (say) 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand? What would he do and say? When asked about the controversial issues of today, how would he respond?

Thinking this way is not idle speculation. The church is "the body of Christ" so the incarnate God actually dwells in the world today and receives those questions and gives responsive answers. But it is a little complicated because the church often does not speak with one voice out of the one body. Might we discern that one voice if we reflected carefully on "what would Jesus do and say" today?

That careful reflection would need to start with the actual record of the incarnate Jesus (the gospels) and the first expression of the "body of Christ" developing that record as it engaged in a "new situation" (the epistles). But it would not stop there. It would always be worth asking, "If Jesus were walking the streets and byways of Aotearoa New Zealand, what would he say when we asked him questions, when we called on him to offer wisdom and insight on issues of our day, as he did in the first century?"

An associated question could be, "As we work on what it means to be followers of Jesus in 21st century society, what would be an approach to being church(-in-the-world) which both accords with the epistles and does not bring the gospel into disrepute (Titus 2:5b)?"

Easy questions to ask; harder to answer. Not least because it is well nigh impossible to attempt to answer them without our already at hand dispositions and presuppositions intruding!

Could we Anglicans, for instance, seriously rethink the church without insisting that it still have bishops, priests and deacons? All are mentioned (albeit priests=presbyters) in the New Testament, but the New Testament does not prescribe our particular construction of ministry orders.

Yet, the alternative, walking away from such questions and continuing to muddle along as we currently do, may not be much of an option. For starters, unless we radically rethink what we are doing, we may cease to exist!

What I have been challenged about, recently, by Bowman Walton (here), and by others elsewhere, (off-blog) is to tackle the questions I raise above with a "kingdom" mindset.

What did Jesus come to establish? It was the kingdom of God?

What does that involve? Precise orders of ministry? No. The kingdom of God is abundant life lived in direct relationship to God as Ruler of that life. In Pauline terms (cf. Romans) it is the "obedience of faith."

Put in other words, a constant challenge posed by the Incarnation is to keep the main thing the main thing, to think "big picture" and to destroy all idols (so that God truly is King).

To give an example as I close - better get this out before Christmas - and a timely one as the new female Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally is announced, the enduring question of the ordination of women as priests and bishops.

Would Jesus, incarnate in the world today, take account of and work with the new mode of women participating equally with men in social, economic, political, educational and cultural life? Or would he bewail this modern development and sternly admonish us to get back to the old ways? Would his great apostolic interpreter, Paul, prescriptively set down 1 Timothy 2:11-15 for today's church?

I think not.

In this world of flesh and blood, the Word entering, engaging and encountering us as one of us would continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God, calling all, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, bosses and workers into it, commanding us all to participate equally in doing God's will on earth as it is in heaven. In neither heaven or the Kingdom of heaven is there gender discrimination.

The incarnate Jesus today would make that clear! The body of Christ on earth today is becoming clear on this matter (albeit faster in some places than in others ...).

For Anglicans working out what it means to be Anglican, what does the incarnation mean for theology/hermeneutics today? The English Reformation was one meaning for "today" of the 16th century. The first Anglican missions in Aotearoa New Zealand were another meaning for the "today" of the 19th century Down Under.

So, what does being Anglicans following the Incarnate One mean today?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There is NO invitation here to resume discussion of That Topic. The implication of "incarnation" as a hermeneutical consideration can be discussed on your own blog or Facebook page. Or, EVENTUALLY, when we resume discussion here ... after the Working Group's final report.

NOTE: In the background to this post and others in a series of "Upstream" posts is this comment by Bowman Walton, recently made here:

""I hope you will not despair of the loss of sight here of your appeal for debate about what is upstream rather than what is downstream."


It is worthwhile to try to identify the upstream assumptions that bedevil downstream discussion, so from time to time I try. My inspiration is the patient work of that 1922 CoE commission on doctrine that reported in 1938.

But even they admitted to a difficult problem: better thought had overtaken the positions that they were trying to reconcile. This could happen to That Topic in the C21 as it happened to the notion of *eucharistic sacrifice* in the C20. For subversive example, what if Romans 1:18-32 really is *prosopoeia*?

November 18, 2017 at 4:19 PM"

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Chris Trotter "burns" NZ Christianity

It does not get much more brutal, or accurate than this:

"In 2017, New Zealand's "mainstream" Christian denominations are, with the notable exception of the Catholic Church, advancing towards their respective graves on a collection of wobbly Zimmer frames.
Meanwhile, in those few churches still able to attract a youthful following, the theology being preached elevates faith above works with fundamentalist certitude. To the lost and the disappointed, salvation is presented as the permanent pay-off of their personal surrender to the Almighty. Neither version strikes much of a chord with New Zealand's millennial generation."


There is a lot to ponder in this acerbic description of failing Protestantism and Pentecostalism.

Your thoughts?

Who is the acerbic critic?

The paragraphs come from the pen of social(ist) critic and commentator Chris Trotter, here.

The whole essay concerns the ongoing battle for the politico-economic soul of Aotearoa New Zealand, focused on the state of our welfare state, introduced to 1930s NZ as "applied Christianity."

Friday, December 15, 2017

+Eleanor leading by Anselmian example

Some Anglicans Down Under are aware of an initiative of the ABC Up Yonder, starting up and continuing to support a community of young people devoting their lives to praying in community for a year at Lambeth Palace. 

The Community of St Anselm is coming - in a Kiwi fashion - to  the Diocese of Wellington, in fact to Wellington our capital city (where we need intercessors as our parliament embarks on a dangerous experiment in entertaining the prospect of legalised euthanasia).

Bishop Eleanor Sanderson, Assistant Bishop of Wellington, is going to move with her family into a Kelburn residence in order to lead a new community devoted to prayer and mission, close to Victoria University.

"“The style of leadership needed in this season is embodied Kingdom examples of deep, Christ-shaped community and deep, missional discipleship alongside the usual episcopal calling within the office of a Bishop.” 
Such embodiment couldn’t be plainer, as Bishop Eleanor prepares to share a new residence in the university suburb of Kelburn with a community of young adult leaders, and later, tertiary students.  This new ministry prepares a space for young students to step into deeper Christian community for the first time.  
Ellie explains: “the intention is to launch a new residential and non-residential community that has a sister relationship with the Community of St Anselm, formed by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace.”  This community has brought a profound influence to the ministry of Lambeth Palace already, and when Ellie travels to the UK this Christmas, she will be spending time with the community at Lambeth Palace to build relationships."

And that is not all! Read the whole article from which the citation is drawn and note that Bishop Justin, Bishop of Wellington, is shifting soon to Whanganui (a regional town in the north western corner of the Diocese) and Bishopscourt, the official residence for the Bishop, will be used for emergency accommodation. #theseChristiansareturningtheworldupsidedown

Not every bishop in our church is in the position of being able to offer these particular leadings by example. Drawing attention to these radical developments in the Diocese of Wellington is about celebrating these inspirational decisions and not about pressing others to do the same.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Order your Lenten Studies for 2018 now!

It is that time of year again! Yes, yes, it is Advent ... which means Lent is coming :)

This set of studies has six for Lent and a bonus two for the Easter season.

Ordering is easy: pop over to

The studies are:

Study One: Hope for the world (Romans 1:1-17)                                                                                           
Study Two: Basis for hope (Romans 3:19-31)
Study Three: Hoping against hope (Romans 4:13-25)
Study Four: Enduring with Hope (Romans 5:1-11)
Study Five: Hope for Transformation (Romans 8:1-17)
Study Six: Suffering with Hope (Romans 8:18-39)
Study Seven: Rejoicing in hope (Romans 12:1-13)
Study Eight: Abounding in hope (Romans 15:1-13)     

A Kindle version is coming and may be of interest to overseas purchasers!                                                                      

Monday, December 11, 2017

Upstream: judgment

Advent is the time when we reflect theologically on various things ... Christmas ... shopping ... meaning of "Advent" ... whether we should have four Sundays in Advent if Christmas Day falls the day after Advent 4 (as it does in 2017) ... but, really, we ought to reflect on JUDGMENT.

When Christ came that first Christmas, the world was under judgment. According to the Magnificat, things were going to be turned upside down. Every time Jesus opened his mouth about his return - according to the Synoptic Gospels - he talked about an imminent, sudden, shocking judgment. We dodge the meaning of Advent if we focus on "coming" and do not talk about "coming to judge."

If we face Christ as Judge, if we have a day of reckoning in the divine court of justice, what might that mean for us? Would it, should it make any difference to how we live? And how we live, of course, is shaped by our understanding of Scripture. The prospect of judgment is the prospect of an inquisition about hermeneutical method!

At a biblical studies conference recently I was introduced to the idea that the first hermeneuticist was Eve, who questioned the meaning of what God had said. Perhaps not the best start to hermeneutics (!), nevertheless Eve's "Did God really say?" question is critical to hermeneutics. As all of us who freely ignore the Bible's entreaties against usury should know ...

I do not for a moment believe that at the Day of Judgement those of us who profess to being Anglican versions of Christians will be asked whether we faithfully believed all that the Thirty-Nine Articles teach us. Nor will we be quizzed on whether our use of modern Anglican liturgies represented a reprehensible departure from the eucharistic theology of the Book of Common Prayer.

No, on the Day of Judgment, we are going to face a Judge concerned with justice, with compassionate love and with how we have lived our lives as a gospel people (e.g. have we proclaimed the gospel? Have we followed Jesus by following his teaching?)

My question here is how the prospect of judgement, that is, of getting our hermeneutics right, measured by the "downstream" effect of accountability might affect what we think the "upstream" (deep background, hidden presuppositions) of Anglican theology means for how we live today. (See further the comment at the foot of this post).

(Put another way, every hermeneutical approach to Scripture has a theological starting point or "ground." And, re judgement, also an endpoint or "goal." Thinking "upstream" and "downstream" is thinking about what that theological starting point and ending point is. In 21st century language, we should ask, What is the "big picture" which shapes the details of our lives as Christians?)

Take the issue of the ordination of women as an example. It is entirely possible, and indeed happens in reality, that we take Scripture, a contemporary hermeneutic, thoughts about tradition, throw them into the melting pot and out comes a cast iron determination that women might be deacons, cannot be priests and certainly are not able to be bishops. But on that Day of Judgement, will that wash with Jesus the Just Judge? Will we get a commendation for "faithfulness to Scripture and tradition"? Or, will we be asked why we were confused about roles when we recognised that women could be doctors, judges, teachers but insisted they could not be priests and bishops? Such a question being driven, of course, by the matter of just treatment of one another as equal, participating human beings, made in the image of God and redeemed for life in the kingdom of God.

The "upstream" counterpart to this "downstream" could be asking whether Jesus came that gender roles as assigned by interpreters of Scripture might be reinforced? Is the "big picture" of creation and redemption not much, much bigger than a determination that the great work of God in the eternal plan for the universe is precisely forwarded by forbidding women from being successors to the Apostles?

This post sets the stage for another which I am hoping to post before Christmas. A seasonal reflection on the Incarnation and what it means for Christ to be incarnated in the world today, as he is through us, his body on earth. This post is NOT an invitation to resume discussion about That Topic. The Working Group is working on the Final Report and its publication will come soon enough. Fear not!

NOTE: In the background to this post and others in a series of "Upstream" posts is this comment by Bowman Walton, recently made here:

""I hope you will not despair of the loss of sight here of your appeal for debate about what is upstream rather than what is downstream."


It is worthwhile to try to identify the upstream assumptions that bedevil downstream discussion, so from time to time I try. My inspiration is the patient work of that 1922 CoE commission on doctrine that reported in 1938.

But even they admitted to a difficult problem: better thought had overtaken the positions that they were trying to reconcile. This could happen to That Topic in the C21 as it happened to the notion of *eucharistic sacrifice* in the C20. For subversive example, what if Romans 1:18-32 really is *prosopoeia*?

November 18, 2017 at 4:19 PM"

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Lead the Pope not into temptation and save us from a time of liturgical trial

We have not had a Pope like Francis in my lifetime. At odds politically with a US President we have not seen in my lifetime either, nevertheless there appears to be one thing they share in common: no thought goes unpublished. No temptation to air a view is resisted.

Today the Pope is in the news for airing a thought or two re changing the Lord's Prayer.

Indeed there is a restlessness abroad in the English-speaking world about the Do Not Lead Us into Temptation line in the Lord's Prayer, illustrated by ACANZP's adherence to "Save us from the time of trial" in the NZPB. Will we settle on an agreed translation in the course of the 21st century?

The issues around the Greek and presumptions about the underlying Aramaic are tricky (as the linked article hints above. See also Cranmer and The Times).

Perhaps we should say the Lord's Prayer in Greek, as we do the Kyrie Eleisons, on some occasions!

ADDED: A very sensible post from Ian Paul here. Also from Bosco Peters here.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas this year should be 15th December

Top Five Reasons why we should celebrate Christmas on 15th December this year:

Counting down

5. Just as noone knows either the day or the hour of the Lord's Second Coming, so noone knows the day or the hour or the weight of the baby of the First Coming. A change of date from time to time would remind us of these uncertainties.

4. "Behold!", the church is not bound by tradition.

3. We spend all Advent preaching sermons about "being ready" and "expect the unexpected" about the coming of Christ so it would be a very good test of preparedness for the unexpected if we announced today, 7th December that Christmas was only eight days away.

2. No one (except clergy and choirs) really does any useful work between 15th and 25th December. So why not get on with Christmas ten days early?

1. Berries are essential to the joy of Christmas and here in the blessed Down Under, raspberries have incredibly started ripening in November. #thanksglobalwarming. I am very concerned that in my raspberry patch we may have reached peak raspberry on 6th December and there will be no berries left by 25th December. To be safe on the berry front, I commend bringing Christmas forward ten days.

But who does one write to about this? Is there a committee which sets the date of Christmas?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Priesthood - an anniversary

Today is the 60th anniversary of my father, Brian Carrell's ordination to the priesthood on 1 December 1957. In the low church tradition of our family there will be no special service to mark this anniversary. But we are noting it. It is a milestone. It has got me thinking about what might be noteworthy about such an anniversary, even within a tradition which takes great care about singling out such milestones lest an unwarranted distinction between clergy and laity within the priesthood of all believers widens further. Many friends and family have ministered in the church for those 60 years, not least my mother May Carrell, and more. And mostly not much is made of lay anniversaries for ministry. Occasionally I hear people note the years (say) since their confirmation.

Here is what I think is noteworthy about today's anniversary, even within a low church tradition.

It is 60 years of living life in a particular ordering through being available. To God, open to being placed where God and the bishop see fit, and to church and to community as priest - exercising roles of presbyter/elder, pastor, preacher and presider. In that ordered life there are responsibilities and privileges which are different to those of lay ministers of the church. Some of those responsibilities, for instance, are quietly significant and burdensome - by "quietly" I mean that as presbyters-and-pastors there are many instances in which confessions and confidences are received which few know anything about; difficult questions are asked by individuals which in the nature of the question cannot be widely shared in order to arrive at a wise and (because it is asked of an officer of the church) responsible answer for which the priest may later be held accountable according to the discipline of the church.

Secondly, in the priestly ordering of life, a priest is always accountable to an authority - to one's bishop, the local synod and the General Synod. Sixty years, in this case, of taking care to observe rules and regulations - more of which apply to clergy as officers of the church than to lay officers - to honour the church rather than to bring it into disrepute, and to respect the bishop, no matter what one thinks privately of the latest episcopal missive or appointment just announced.