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.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Never underestimate the romantic appeal of a roast chicken dinner

Prince Harry, during a home cooked roast chicken dinner, proposed to Meghan Markle who was so excited by the prospect of appearing endlessly in the Daily Mail and NZ Woman's Weekly that she said "Yes" before he finished the question. I have watched Suits, once, and I see Harry's point of view: she is rather lovely.

The question, however, which is keeping the good ecclesiologists of Anglican Down Under awake at nights is how could ++Justin so readily step up to the mark as the marriage celebrant for this couple's wedding in a church? Meghan, famously, is a divorcee. Not so long ago, Prince Charles and Camilla could not marry in church. They had a civil wedding followed by a blessing in a church, conducted by ++Justin's predecessor, ++Rowan. What is the difference?

Ian Paul helpfully sets out the rules and regs of the C of E re marriage of divorcees here. And he explains the difference between Charles and Camilla's situation and Harry and Meghan's situation. Along the way Ian clearly explains why Anglicans accept the dissolvability of marriage whereas for Roman Catholics marriage is indissoluble.

I will NOT accept comments which seek to link questions of marriage, divorce and remarriage with same-sex marriage or same-sex blessings. There is a link but we are having a holiday of posts about the latter here so I see no need to have further comments re SSM or SSB. (If desperate they can still be made at the post below, About that submission). I am interested in your comments re the situation in the CofE re divorce, Ian Paul's explanation of what Jesus taught, the situation in your own church and the situation in ACANZP.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A great weekend, but not for blogging

I have been a bit distracted, in a good way, recently, so no posts since last Monday and not much engagement with comments in the last few days. Our youngest child turned 21 at the weekend and the celebrations involved our house and garden. Some intensive effort to prepare things and then some full on hospitality as family arrived home and other family arrived. Food and drink to be purchased.Oh, and not all has been purchased so back to the supermarket. It has been great and wonderful and heartwarming. But a 21 year old youngest child means I am, well, older myself and the intensive effort has been tiring, including muscles not normally used when typing words on a laptop.

Fortunately the greatest crisis or moment of change in the Anglican world seems to be the non-controversial restoration of the Archbishop of York's clergy collar, following Mugabe's downfall. If only all Anglican challenges were so simply resolved - albeit after many years, too many years of waiting for change.

Also noted, English cricket's perennial struggle to match Australia, innings for innings when playing in Australia!

A comment each on a couple of comment threads through last week.

Creation in Genesis - myth or history?

A fascinating exchange last week which (in my words) went something like this:

X: you can't claim Genesis 1-3 as historical facts

Y: you claim we are made in the image of God, which comes from what you call the "creation myth" in Genesis 1-3, so either Genesis 1-3 is true or it isn't. Which is it?

Critical here is that Genesis 1-3, before it is determined to be historical or mythical (or even both), is Israel's claim that in these chapters truth has been revealed about God, humanity and the world in which humanity lives. God is sole source of the life of the world and of the life in the world. Humanity is the apex of God's creation (Genesis 1) and the centre of the life God has created (Genesis 2). As apex of creation, humanity is distinguished from plants and animals by being created in the image of God. This theological claim cannot be confirmed by biology or archaeology. It is a theological claim because it is integral to Israel's "talk about God." Israel's God has both created the world and communicated with the world. In Francis Schaeffer's phrase, God is not silent.

What many Christians struggle with, in the modern age, is that the scientific narrative of the origins of the world and of the life within it, at best contrasts with and at worst (from a theological perspective) contradicts the theological narrative told through the first chapters of Genesis. (By "theological narrative" I mean that a story is told in which truth about God and God's actions as creator and communicator is conveyed to readers and hearers of the narrative.)

Something we who live within the modern age seem to rarely grasp about the Genesis narrative is that it was a response within a particular, non-scientific context. In a world of plural creation myths, Egyptian through to Babylonian, and most likely with particular reference to the latter, since Genesis was almost certainly finalised after Judah was exiled to Babylon, the Genesis narrative told Israel that the other myths were at best partial insights into what happened. There was only one creating God and that God had neither competitor nor delegated secondary God/god assisting or hampering creation.

Genesis had to respond to the myths of the day not to a forecast of Darwinian evolutionary theory some 2300 years hence!

Jesus himself (and Paul) worked with the world in which they lived, an Israelite context in which a bedrock "fact" was the single origin of humanity through the first couple, Adam and Eve. Jesus was incarnated into a specific context. We must not think of his brain pausing every time he mentioned (or implied or presumed the story of) Adam and Eve to work out how truthful he was going to be because he also "knew" all about Darwin. He lived and breathed the scriptural world of his fellow first century human beings.

And the mission of Jesus was to save those made in God's image. (Sorry, dogs and cats, but we have absolutely no reason to think you will be also saved. You may or may not be. You are just not important enough for Jesus (or Paul) to have bothered with inane - yes, I am deeply prejudiced against the salvation of animals - questions about those not created in the image of God)!

Has Anglican theology, or Anglicans theologising, gone deep enough into the theology of life, of church, of salvation?

I have a lot of material to digest via various posted links in comments made, as well as comments themselves about my critique of the Jerusalem Declaration (as well as some comments made on my last post on You Known What). I cannot guarantee I will get to much of this before Christmas. My daughter's 21st is a gateway to quite a lot of Christmas/End of Year functions coming up :). But a quick sense is that we Anglicans really, really need to dig deeper than we are doing. It is not just that we are going to the dogs by drifting away from orthodoxy/"orthodoxy" and only digging deeper will bring realisation of how close to the precipice we are going (cf. Bryden Black's recent comments here). It is also, I sense, that we are not even close to understanding what development/"development" of dogma and doctrine might mean for a rapidly changing world. By which I do not mean being progressive/"progressive." Indeed the fact that for some Anglicans we appear only able to consider "development" to be development when it is clearly "progressive" is itself a sign of the lack of depth to our theological ruminations.

Right, back to annual leave. There are some post-party developments in my garden (Eden!) which need attending to :)

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Blessed Isles Declaration

A recent comment on ADU challenged me re what a Blessed Isles (NZ) version of the Jerusalem Declaration would look like, noting that I commented then that I do not think any licensed clergyperson of our church has implicitly signed up to it because the meaning and intent of our constitution including our fundamentals are equivalent to the JD.

I have not time to rewrite the thing in toto so here is an annotated critique of the original JD. There is much that is agreeable in the JD. In summary my critique is not that it is a poor document but that it is imprecise.

Compared to some valuable Anglican documents such as the 39A (revised downwards from 42A) and the BCP (the result of several revisions, from memory, at least 1549, 1552, 1559, 1662), the JD is a somewhat hasty document!

NOTE: there is no need to comment about the connection between the JD and That Topic, or on clause 8 below. The post before this has had ample debate on That Topic. Comment further there if you must. 

I will only accept comments here which comment on the viability or otherwise of the JD as a general statement of faith and practice for Anglicans in the 21st century; or related comments on (e.g.) the continuing validity of the 39A or the BCP. Comments on my annotations are welcome - of course! - but note that I have not annotated clause 8 below.

"The Jerusalem Declaration
In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.
  1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.
  2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual readingThere is no agreed or "consensual" "plain and canonical" sense of Scripture in the Anglican world, and certainly not in the world of Anglican conservatism where (e.g.) veneration of Mary can be supported in Anglo-Catholic churches and ignored if not dismissed in Reformed churches, or women can and cannot be ordained as presbyters and bishops, or speaking in tongues can or cannot be welcomed according to varied theological understandings. Most alarmingly, neither here nor elsewhere in the JD is there any attempt to set out how the Bible is to be interpreted correctly. What body of teachers (synod? house of bishops? doctrinal commission?) assists the church when the "plain and canonical sense" is breached? Who or what determines that this reading rather than that is "a" or even "the" consensual reading of Scripture?
  3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Personally I am reasonably happy with this statement but it is a statement about how Anglicans understand "one holy catholic and apostolic church." The Orthodox, for instance, stand by Seven Ecumenical councils and the Roman Catholics understand the authoritative councils behind "the rule of faith" differently. Where this statement runs aground is on the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed: is it part of the "historic Creeds" or not"? The Declaration does not say. If it is part of the historic creeds then that is in contradiction to the four Ecumencical Councils referred to here!
  4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today. I think this begs more than a few questions. Are each and every one of the Thirty-Nine Articles authoritative for Anglicans today? I note, for instance, two versions of the Thirty-Nine Articles, one for the USA which has no monarch and one for the Anglican churches still under the monarchy (see Article 37). I also see statements in the 39A about Rome and the papacy which not all Anglicans might like subscribing to in today's world where we have less antagonism towards Rome and seek rapprochement across our (continuing) disagreements - to say nothing of whether certain Articles are authoritative for Anglo-Catholics (noting Articles 19, 22, 31). I personally am largely happy with the theology of the 39A as they set out thinking on (e.g.) the sacraments, salvation and the church. But I am not perfectly happy with Article 19 which focuses ecclesiology on "congregation" and omits (as all other articles do) any helpful guidance on what it means to be an episcopal church with diocesan bishops. Further, I note that the 39A give absolutely no guidance as to the authoritative character of the "four Ecumenical Councils". What the 39A do talk about re councils is that they "may err" (Article 21). How do we know the "four Ecumenical Councils" have not erred? I also note that strictly speaking, according to Article 21 "General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes." It is my personal hope, perhaps yours too, that we might yet have another General Council (e.g. to sort out, once and for all, the Filioque clause) and I do not envisage "Princes" having any role in sending out the invitations! I would be a bit surprised if GAFCON envisaged that and thus I call them out on whether they really do mean "authoritative" in this part of the declaration. Better by far, in fact, is ACANZP's constitution which includes the 39A among formularies in which the Doctrine of Christ and his Sacraments are "explained."
  5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.
  6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each cultureHere's the thing, there is a lot of liturgical stuff happening, even in conservative Anglican churches, which does not abide by this rubric. Three examples: (i) when we follow modern revised eucharistic services (e.g. A New Zealand Prayer Book) we are generally following a revision of the BCP's Communion service which goes beyond "local adaptation." Without worrying about whether the doctrine of communion has been revised or not, the modern revisions are significant revisions of the structure of the BCP Communion service, a structure that Cranmer pursued to make certain points in the midst of the English Reformation, but which now is discarded in order to bring Anglican eucharists more in line with the great liturgical tradition of Christianity; (ii) in my experience, conservative Anglican parishes in the Reformed (rather than Anglo-Catholic) tradition are pretty happy with services that have prayers, sermon and songs and have no particular adherence to the template of Mattins or Evensong: again, this form of service goes beyond "local adaptation" of the BCP; (ii) I also hear of Dedication services for infants being conducted in some Anglican ministry units Down Under. Such services, whatever their pastoral merits (e.g. to accommodate members of the congregation who are Believers' Baptist in outlook), go against the BCP and the 39A. In other words, this clause is not - as best I can tell - actually implemented in all ministry units sympathetic to GAFCON.
  7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.
  8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.
  9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.
  10. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.
  11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration. Obviously this clause enables recognition of Anglicans who remove themselves from jurisdiction of an Anglican province but wish to continue being Anglican and the joining in making "this declaration" is potentially a way forward for determining who is truly Anglican and who is not. Indeed potentially this clause could result in (say) GAFCON provinces declaring other provinces, unwilling to sign to the JD, to be not truly Anglican. But there are many churches - notably in North America - claiming to be (a) Anglican (b) orthodox in faith and practice. Are they all to be recognised as Anglican? If I set myself up in my living room as a church and lay hands on myself, self-declare to be the Archbishop of My Suburb and sign the JD, will GAFCON recognise my orders and jurisdiction? I would hope not! But this clause does not set out any means for GAFCON Primates to distinguish between (say) ACNA and my little (and, by the way, perfect) church!
  12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us. Again, this clause is imprecise. What are "secondary" matters? Who determines them in distinction with "primary" matters? How much freedom is there on secondary matters, I ask, noting brewing controversy in ACNA over the ordination of women?
  13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord. Also "again", this is imprecise. Who or what determines that someone in authority as a bishop or seminary theologian has "denied" the orthodox faith in word and deed? Is there a court or tribunal to look into these matters? Or is it simply to be the "court of public opinion" in which various pundits and bloggers nail Bishop X for saying something ambiguous about the resurrection?
  14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

About that submission ...

I have decided not to make a further submission to the Motion 29 Working Group (by end of tomorrow 17 November 2017), being happy and privileged to now be part of General Synod/te Hinota Whanui itself.

Bosco Peters' has made a submission and posted it here.

The summary of it is this:

"This submission suggests:
• If discussion since the publication of IRWG deems it sufficiently helpful, amend the declarations of adherence and submission to the authority of GSTHW.
• Have an explicit, clear and positive recognition and acknowledgement that we are living together with disagreement – differences in belief and practice on committed same-sex couples.
• Provide immunity from complaint for bishops and clergy for exercising their discretion on whether or not to authorise or conduct blessings of committed same-sex couples. Clergy and couples can choose from available resources and/or work together to produce a service of blessing. 
• Provide immunity from complaint for bishops for exercising their discretion on whether or not to ordain or licence anyone in a committed same-sex relationship."

If you want to comment directly on it, please do so at Liturgy itself. I am reproducing the summary here because it offers thoughts I generally agree with. And they are similar to what I proposed here on 26 September 2017 - resulting in some robust comments! That was:

"My thought re an improvement to the proposal is to pare it back and slim it to a minimum set of changes:
(1) our declarations are changed in line with the proposal
(2) clergy and ministry unit office holders may determine without fear of discipline whether or not blessings of same sex relationships will be conducted within the ministry unit
(3) bishops have discretion to accept a person in a same sex marriage or civil union as a candidate for ordination or appointee to licensed ministry position."
If I were to make a submission (i.e. combining Bosco's submission and my 26 September points) I would now add a bullet or numbered point, supporting the principle of the recommendation in the interim report of the working group that there be provision for "Christian communities" of individuals and ministry units who share common values on one side or another of the disagreement. 

In practice that recommendation involved a proposal for legislation which also references Religious communities, with some severe commentary against that inclusion. 

If we could excise that reference and focus on what it might mean for individuals and ministry units to make compacts together - the underlying model of voluntary societies is not new to Anglicanism - then my understanding is that many (but not all) conservatives on this matter would be comfortable supporting the proposal.

A few other thoughts

Since this will be my last post on these matters until the Final Report is out (unless some major development warrants comment) I want to put down a few further thoughts, some arising from discussions in the last few days with colleagues.

(1) I remain of the view that the core of the proposal on the table (no change to formularies, permission to bless same-sex relationships) is not reason to split off a new church from ACANZP. My primary reason is that I can only see any new church formed having at the core of its new identity a view about homosexuality (whatever formal, rhetorical protestations are made that this would not be the case). There are no grounds in the New Testament for forming church on the basis of a view on homosexuality. (Not even 1 Corinthians 5 offers those grounds - the opening to that chapter speaks of church discipline not church formation). 

(2) When Bosco Peters writes, "Have an explicit, clear and positive recognition and acknowledgement that we are living together with disagreement – differences in belief and practice on committed same-sex couples." I wholeheartedly concur. We need a written something in the canon/resolution we final decide which explicitly names the church we are on this matter: in disagreement and therefore (if we so choose) remaining together as that church and not as another church. Living with disagreement is possible - personally I do it on a daily basis as an Anglican!!

(3) I am interested (please comment to support me or disagree with me) in the possibility that GSTHW might also decide on a moratorium on discussing this matter for (say) ten years.* In his post Bosco Peters laments the amount of energy we have spent as a church on this matter. One way to dissolve the energy level, at least for a period, would be to have such a moratorium. To be clear: this would mean those who wish to make further "progress" on the matter desisting from pushing for further change and this from provoking further resistance by those who value tradition and orthodoxy in matters of faith and practice.

*Some readers here will recall that a moratorium along similar lines has been a recent feature of the NZ Presbyterian church.

Monday, November 13, 2017

My report on the IDC meeting on Saturday

Interpretation: it was a process which is part of a process towards Tikanga Pakeha contributing feedback to the Working Group, thus, hopefully, shaping the Final Report and Recommendations so that the breadth of our Tikanga can receive and, at General Synod in May 2018, approve without too much further discussion that something which we can live with and move forward together on. (Ditto, for the other Tikanga, who also have their own processes going on).

In our process on Saturday we had opportunity to share what processing, thinking and concerns are part of our Dioceses responses to the Interim Report. That was illuminating about where we are each heading and yielded a variety of statements which will be collated and forwarded to the Working Group. It would not be fair to the process for me to put in writing what I thought were "emerging themes" or "common concerns" because that would not just be my personal take on what I heard and experienced but also weighted towards the voices in the small group I was in, which was but one of six such groups.

Am I confident we are going to secure agreement eventually? Will we hold together? I think we can only answer such questions when we have the Final Report, in February 2018. Thus, unless some significant development here or in the Communion is reported and worth commenting on, I am going to try very hard not to post further on these matters after the 17th November, until the Final Report is published. The 17th is the deadline for submissions to the Working Group and I think it best to let them get on with their work after that!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Red blooded Anglicans will want to comment on at least one of these items!

Prayer in parliament. Change is coming, may even have been prematurely determined by our new Speaker. What do you think?

Filioque clause: keep it or drop it? Would the latter change Anglicanism at its very Reformation foundations, asks Doug Chaplin? Does the former inhibit important ecumenical movement towards greater unity in Christ? (Incidentally, marvellous theological writing in the document Doug Chaplin refers to). Liturgy also picks up the recent Anglican-Oriental Orthodox dialogue and, in the process, reminds Kiwi Anglican readers of some important "eastern" characteristics to our liturgies. (Comments specific to Doug Chaplin's and Bosco Peters' respective posts should be made there; but here you might focus on my somewhat rudimentary question: keep it or drop it?)

Should a prospective bishop of a diocese in a province which is not officially aligned with GAFCON be forced to sign the Jerusalem Declaration in order to be considered as a bishop of that diocese?

Friday, November 10, 2017

NZ Bishop leaves for Leeds

Up a bit earlier this morning and what should be the first Tweet I find staring back at my sleepy eyes but news that Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki Diocese, is returning to England to be the Bishop of Ripon in the Diocese of Leeds. Announcement is here.

It was a pleasure some years back to meet Helen-Ann when she was doing research at SJC in Auckland and then not long after that to be part of an appointment panel which recommended her appointment as Dean of Pakeha students there.

I wish Bishop Helen-Ann every blessing in her new role.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Do we need to talk about an Extra Provincial Diocese?

The Anglican Communion is reasonably flexible when it comes to episcopal arrangements.

It has not ejected my church for casting tradition aside in the early nineties when we established our Three Tikanga Church (breaching the tradition of one episcopal rule per territory), nor more recently when we established that the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki would have two "co-equal" bishops (and two cathedrals).

The Communion is also able to episcopally relate to churches with weird names such as the Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church but not because it appreciates weird names. That church is an "Extra Provincial Diocese" which typically refers to a small church which is under the metropolitan oversight of the ABC. But only "typically" because one of these churches, Ceylon/Sri Lanka, has two dioceses and one, Cuba, is under the oversight of a metropolitan council.

Of course the Communion does not welcome all dry and sundry dioceses to its midst. Readers here will know that ACNA (a whole province of dioceses) is kept at arms length and the Diocese of South Carolina, while separate from TEC and not joined (as it now is) to ACNA, was not welcomed into the fold.

But that refusal to welcome has stiffened the resolve of GAFCON (representing the numerical majority of Anglicans in the world) to recognise ACNA. So ACNA is not without reason to continue to retain "Anglican" in its title.

Here in the Blessed Isles, as we work our way through our dilemma over same-sex blessings, we may have to consider the possibility of having an Extra Provincial Diocese created. Before we get to that, a few observations about what I am hearing these days

(1) Concern that the attempt of our church to steer away from doing the solid theological work which should undergird a momentous decision is a mistake. That theological work needs to be done and should be done, if we are to have a semblance of a chance of holding together what otherwise continue to be irreconcilable convictions.

(2) There are seemingly unbridgeable differences which the current interim proposal does not seem to offer a bridge over (despite some, er, at least me, thinking it is a beautiful proposal!); and thus we find this sentence describing our situation:

"... there are two irreconcilable convictions present in the national church; those who see the blessedness of same-sex marriages, and those who believe such relationships should be repented of." (see larger citation below for source).
(3) Related to (2) is the concern that it is impossible to teach in a responsible manner what one believes if that is directly contradicted by the neighbouring parish.

Whether you share these concerns or not, whether you think they have weight or not, they do weigh on the minds of people I am hearing from who are doing careful reflection on the situation we are in. They will, I believe, be part of the discussion which Pakeha reps from the seven NZ Dioceses to next year's General Synod will take to a meeting on Saturday in Wellington. A kind of pre-General Synod round up of views and where we are ats.

Why raise the question of talking about an extra provincial diocese? It is because last Thursday, 2 November, Dave Clancey, one of my clerical colleagues here in Christchurch, wrote an article for the GAFCON website, entitled, "Remaining faithful to the gospel in New Zealand - a response to Motion 29."

I understand this article to update global Anglicans on the final views from FCANZ on the Motion 29 Working Group's Interim Report. FCA NZ's initial response, a couple of months back, was published here.

In that initial response there was a response to the Interim Report as it offered a way forward for those dissatisfied with the proposal which was "additional episcopal oversight": FCANZ then wanted "alternative episcopal oversight."

In Dave Clancey's article that request has shifted, as seen in the following excerpt (my bold):
"While the proposals by the Working Group state that the Constitution and the Formularies of the Church are not changing, the change to the Canon allowing services which are inconsistent with the Constitution and Formularies is simply circumventing them. The provision of protection for conservatives through Religious Orders or Communities may be a good start, but FCANZ has said that at a minimum the provision of alternative episcopal oversight (rather than the additional oversight that an Order/Community would provide) would be required. Even then, many feel that this will not be enough.  
Ultimately FCANZ sees that the best way forward for the Province of New Zealand is the formation of an Extra-Provincial Diocese. This was FCANZ’s suggestion to the Working Group prior to the release of their Interim Report. Extra-Provincial Dioceses exist in a number of places in the world, and the creation of one in New Zealand would allow faithful Anglicans to remain faithfully Anglican, while at the same time being distinct from the Provincial church. It would also honestly acknowledge that there are two irreconcilable convictions present in the national church; those who see the blessedness of same-sex marriages, and those who believe such relationships should be repented of. An Extra-Provincial Diocese would be the best way for the Provincial church to give expression to this reality.  
Should the Provincial church choose not to pursue this proposal, and continue on its stated course of blessing same-sex marriages, many associated with FCANZ will be left with no alternative than to seek new ways of being Anglican."
No pressure then, for our meeting in Wellington, for the Motion 29 Working Group as it works soon on its Final Report, and ultimately for General Synod in May 2018!
- we need to find a way forward
- if possible, a way forward through "irreconcilable convictions"
- could that way incorporate Alternative Episcopal Oversight?
- if not possible, and even if it is possible, could we see our way to an Extra Provincial Diocese?
- and if that is not possible ...

I urge Kiwi and other Anglicans here not to reject anything out of hand. See my opening sentences: creativity in modern Anglicanism, especially Down Under, has few constraints.

I ask Kiwi Anglicans to ask ourselves whether we are seeing these matters too much in "black and white" or binary terms. Yes, there are irreconcilable convictions, but there are those who cannot live in a church with irreconcilable convictions, and there are those that can. I think that is at least three groups, not two groups of Anglicans!

Is it whistling in the wind to point out to faithful Anglicans that we already live with contradictions? Just because we do not talk about them much does not change the fact that we live with them. 

Right inside Scripture, there are contradictions between the histories we know as 1 Samuel - 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles. Not just contradictions of narrated facts (compare the respective stories of Manasseh; or ask why the story of Bathsheba figures heavily in one of the histories and not at all in the other) but also contradictions in theologies (Mosaic covenant perspective v. Davidic covenant perspective). These two histories God has seen fit to include in our one Holy Scripture, even though they were composed by different groups of Jews with "irreconcilable convictions."

On what basis do we live with contradictions inside Scripture but not within our church?

Warning: I will not post comments which speculate on or otherwise discuss specific individuals or groups of people in ACANZP in respect of departure. Do not mix such speculation with comment on the concept of (say) AEO or EPD because your comment will not be published. Focus, please, on concepts and ideas and leave views of people out. This post is also not an opportunity to further canvas the much canvassed issues and questions which typically arise when discussing human sexuality. If you want to comment on the situation our church is in, please focus comment on that. There is no need to drift over into comment on human sexuality issues. Constructively speaking, I am looking for comment about whether we can or cannot live with irreconcilable convictions and what a way forward might be as a consequence.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Preaching the gospel for 21st century cut through: tradition

Ruminating after a week spent north of here, a few posts down, I raised the question - again! - of what the gospel means in the 21st century. What is good news for a society in which many people cheerfully ignore God because, it seems, there is much to be cheerful about? And God is not needed to provide the "much" in our Blessed Isles -  good income, good wine, good food, good company, good health: the good life. (Yes, yes, I know some people are struggling ... but we do have a low unemployment rate, the vast proportion of people are housed satisfactorily, few if any people are actually starving to death.)

Andrei, in some comments responding, helpfully reminded me and us - in my words - of sticking to our liturgical, ritual, traditional knitting.

That raises for me this question about getting cut through for the gospel - sort of a "pre question."

What is the (Anglican) church to which we long to see new converts join us in membership of Christ's body?

There are various versions of being Anglican churches in these islands! Some even work :)

When we seek conversion through proclaiming the gospel we are not simply engaged in saving souls from hell. We seek people to be transformed from reckless sinners rebelling against God into participatory members of the body of Christ. Various modes of expression of that body exist and when it comes to evangelism there seems to be temptation to adjust the mode to enhance evangelism.

Being Anglican as a church is sufficiently flexible to adjust our mode. We can, for instance, lessen emphasis on the ministry of the Sacrament in order to stronger emphasis the ministry of the Word or vice versa. When we lessen emphasis on the Sacrament we can look more like a Baptist church than a Pentecostal one, or vice versa. When we place more emphasis on the Sacrament we can look like a Roman Catholic church or like Taize. (And all these modes have been proven, in certain times and places to "work.")

Also, some ministry units are able to sustain a varied programme of services: standard p. 404 eucharist, informal family service, youth flavoured evening service, Messy Church. In such a case there is something of the best of all Anglican liturgical worlds!

In my experience, for a number of Anglican ministry units, there is a question about what kind of church new converts would be joining.

For instance, musically, would the convert be joining a church which feels like it is 1977 or 2017?

Liturgically speaking, would the convert be joining a church which feels like it loves the liturgy it uses and understands how liturgy works to glorify God and to edify the congregation? Or, joining a church which keeps implying some things are only done "because we are Anglican"?

There are other questions ...!

For clarity: I am not arguing here that if we get Sundays right we will draw new people off the streets into our midst. That may or may not happen. I am raising the question what kind of church new people would come into if we invited them to participate as we encourage their new faith in Christ.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Karl Marx "a timid conservative" acc. to John Chrysostom

Spoiler Alert: do not read this article by David Bentley Hart about the New Testament if you are a capitalist!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Back up the liturgical truck

With H/T to Bosco Peters I draw your attention to a masterful article by Bishop Charles Drennan (Palmerston North) on recent changed requirements from Rome regarding how the Missal in English is to be translated.

There is a degree of backing up the liturgical truck with these changes, towards the spirit of Vatican 2 and the ICEL and thus towards possibilities for greater commonalities between eucharistic liturgies in the English speaking world.

I seem to recall Jesus himself praying about this, using my favourite Latin phrase, ut unim unum sint.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

95 Vital Theses for Today's Church

Continuing in Reformation celebration vein, the most vital 95 theses you will read about the state of the church today :)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Celebrating the Reformation (2/2)

This morning I am going to the Transitional Cathedral for the funeral of Les Brighton, a friend for some 30 years and a recent, valued colleague for a couple of years when his last position before retirement was Theology House Administrator. Some readers here will have known Les and agree with a sentence a mutual friend wrote at the weekend, "Who can forget Les’s charm, whimsy, and acuity!"

Les was foremost a Bible teacher, a servant of the Word, who loved to delve deep into Scripture in order to prepare a sermon and, in recent years, to write a book on Romans. He was passionate about Scripture, thankful for God's grace and the joy of the Lord was his strength, especially through the last eight years or so as he fought cancer, beat it back, but, sadly, has finally succumbed to it.

Anyway, yesterday I promised a one line description of the Reformation on this 500th anniversary of Luther's Exocet exegetical missile fired against the ecclesiastical iniquities of his day. It comes via Les Brighton who pointed out to me a couple of years ago the splendour of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall brought to the TV screen through an adaptation starring Mark Rylance. In particular, as evidence of the brilliance of the insightful script writing, he described a scene which - unfortunately - I cannot pinpoint for you re the episode though I later saw it myself. In this scene Mark Rylance's character, Thomas Cromwell hands his wife a copy of Tyndale's New Testament, urging her to read it, and says, from memory, this line:

"You'll be surprised what you do not find in there."

That is my one line summary of the Reformation to ponder on this Anniversary!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Celebrating the Reformation (1/2) UPDATED

Heaps across the internet about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation so not much need for me to offer more words so a self-restriction to two posts, one today and one tomorrow.

Today's one is courtesy of a lovely article by Archbishop Justin Welby, here.

Tomorrow - to tease your interest - will be the best one line description of the Reformation you will ever see/hear on mainstream television ...

H/T to Andrei who has sent a link in comments below to this rationale from Stanley Hauerwas for why he is a Protestant.

TBF (to be frank) I think I have more reasons for being Protestant than the great man does,* though I agree with him that the Roman Catholic church presides over a past and present rich theological heritage, which all should continue to mine deeply into.

I am not so sanguine as Hauerwas that the work of the Protestant-led Reformation is done within Roman Catholicism. Indulgences, for instance, still exist (even if they are no longer able to be purchased with coin). There remains, in my and others' view, a continuing lack of complete confidence in the mercy and grace of God, demonstrated, for instance, in prayers at a funeral which continue to seek mercy for the departed. And there is, of course, the matter, sometimes discussed here, of whether Vatican II will continue to be embraced by the upper echelons of Catholic leadership. Hauerwas sees Vatican II as part of the Protestant Reformation's influence on the aggiornamento of the church.

However, I wish to learn from the history of the last 500 hundred years and make the point of such criticisms not that the RCC should be better - no church is perfect - but that Protestantism need not be ashamed or feel (in a Catholic phrase I have heard re the Anglican church) like "the younger brother". The Reformation opened our eyes to the grace and mercy of God mediated through the one Mediator, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. We must not close them.

AND Bosco Peters' has a fulsome post with key texts here.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Extroverted or introverted church?

I am working on my series about the gospel in the 21st century but meantime, relevant to that topic, the following long article by Andrew Brown is an excellent read: here.

It is about the tribulations of Pope Francis and the church he leads but it is not rocket science to draw analogies with our own churches as we face the challenges of the 21st century.

The critical big picture question is whether we are going to be an extroverted or introverted church!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Reforming the New Testament?

The other day I read Kelvin Wright's review of the newly published David Bentley Hart translation of the New Testament.

In the strength of that review I ordered my own copy from Amazon.

I might not have done so if I had read Wesley Hill's review first! (H/T Michael Bird on Twitter). Side note: in the next 100 years I do not imagine we will see a state broadcaster in NZ which carries wonderful religion material like the ABC (of Oz, not USA) does.

This morning Bryden Black in a comment alerts us to this First Things review.

Guess I had better read my copy when it comes :)

Something Hart seems to be doing, according to the reviews, in this 500th year of the Reformation, is to reform - at least a little bit - our understanding of the New Testament.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Don't leave town till you have seen the country

So said a great slogan many years ago, aiming to boost internal tourism.

I am not exactly the world's greatest globetrotter but I have lived overseas twice, travelled a little bit at other times to Australia, South Pacific, Asia, Britain and Europe. But only this year have I visited two of the most beautiful parts of the Blessed Isles for the first time ever.

In January it was the Bay of Islands. This past Labour weekend Teresa and I visited Coromandel for my first time ever. Just lovely - bush, green dairy pastures, sandy beaches, Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, Pauanui, Hahei, Tairua, Cook's Beach, and, wonderfully because of a splendid market, Thames. We live in an amazingly diverse country, blessed with beauty and cows. Lots of them!

This brilliant weekend followed a fascinating four days in Auckland - two at a meeting of the Tikanga Pakeha Ministry Council (TPMC - a policy making body re education and training) and two at a St. John's College Colloquium celebrating 25 years of being a Three Tikanga church.

Being Anglican in the Blessed Isles is a curious thing. On the one hand, factually, we are a church in steady numerical decline. On the other hand, experientially, we are a church working on change, seeking leaders with adaptability, flexibility and creativity. (TPMC's themes were along these lines)

The latter means we are recognising the challenge before us, recognising that we cannot do everything as it once was done and recognising that in a changing world the shape of the future church is not yet known. I sense, for instance, that the biggest change coming - perhaps a decade from now - is the end of parishes as we know them. If so, that will be because we recognise that in a world of connection possible through cars and computers, our gatherings will be determined by factors other than geography.

But our changing world is also a changing world driven by patterns of migration and of upheaval in respect of cultural hegemonies.

The Colloquium was a sharp reminder - not least to me as one of the presenters, of whom some sharp questions were asked - that in a Three Tikanga church, that is,  a church determined to end Pakeha domination, it is very difficult for one or other culture not to be dominant!

But woven through the Colloquium was a reminder that the situation of our church is different to 1992: a figure of some 213 different cultures in Aotearoa NZ was mentioned, 198 of which fall under the term "Pakeha". (Apparently 14 cultures make up Pasefika and Maori is the one Tikanga with a single (though diverse) culture.) What recent migratory patterns is confronting us with is that to be Pakeha is no longer a question of what old settler families and new migrants from Britain think it means. Tikanga Pakeha is old and new European, African, and Asian: exciting and challenging!

In other words, relating the two events of last week, the future shape of our church includes the future shape of a multi-cultural church.

And yet ... a raw reality of Pakeha life is that we have a large number of congregations in which - my estimate - 98% of the faces are white and 85% of those faces belong to faithful Anglicans who will not be alive when we celebrate the bicentenary of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The sands of time are running out on us ...

Through our pleasant weekend in Coromandel, filled as it was with happy holiday makers, I reflected on what the gospel might mean in a land filled with milk and honey - the good life here is so good few seem bothered to connect with God as source of the goodness. What is our "good news" in a land already filled with goodness?

I will try to offer some semblance of an answer in a future post later this - yes, another busy - week. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Everything to play for

We are going to have a very new government in NZ.

Jacinda Ardern will be our new PM, leading a coalition government consisting of Labour and New Zealand  First with the Green Party offering confidence and supply and having some ministers out of cabinet.

Bill English has led National to its best ever defeat. I guess that will be of no consolation to him. I would urge him not to resign. I can't see his successor in sight.

There will be changes to our economic policies. As a mortgage holder I am a little nervous. They say interest rates always rise when Winston Peters is in government!

As a Christian I am concerned that our economy may be imperilled by having a two and a half headed government, which will make it much harder for the government to help our poor and vulnerable. That is what matters most to me about politics: that we have an economy which sustains a fair programme for the advancement of society.

Jacinda Ardern is a brilliant politician and will have the opportunity to be one of our most revered Prime Ministers. I hope Winston Peters doesn't stuff it up for her.

Everyone has everything to play for!